EPA Chief Pruitt: Obama 'increased burden' on coal mining industry

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt lashed out at the Obama administration on Tuesday for waging a war on the coal mining industry and defended the Trump administration's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

“I think the better discussion is not to put artificial targets, like we did in the Paris [Agreement], that the past administration, with their own regulations, failed miserably to achieve, but to focus on what we’ve already done to reduce our CO2 footprint, and then export that technology to places like China and India”, Pruitt told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.”

The Paris Climate Accord, signed by President Obama and 194 other nations in 2016, limits nations’ emissions of greenhouse gasses in an attempt to mitigate the effects of global warming. The earliest that the U.S. can leave the agreement is Nov. 4, 2020, which is the day after the next presidential election.

Pruitt also lauded the decision to repeal Clean Power Plan, a signature regulatory program to curb emissions from coal-fired power plants passed by Obama, which he called a “war on coal.”

“It was a real war,” he said. “And the president said the war is over. And that’s what I was there to announce to those folks there. As a regulator you shouldn’t engage in any war in any sector of the economy.”

Last year, U.S. coal production reached a record low since 1978, but 2017 has signaled a turnaround for the industry. The nation’s coal output fell about 10% in 2015 and 17% in 2016, according to the Energy Information Administration. But during the first eight months of 2017, production levels rose by 14%.

The Trump administration's’ decision to roll back the Obama-era policy could save 240 million tons of annual coal production, in addition to protect more than 27,000 mining jobs and the nearly 100,000 indirect jobs that rely on coal.

Restrictions put in place by President Obama’s administration not only hurt an already depressed coal industry, but failed to improve the environmental outcome that it purported to save, Pruitt said.

“From a mining sector perspective,” he said, “They would say to you it’s not just competition in the marketplace, it was the availed purpose by the previous administration to place burdens and restrictions on them that did not improve environmental outcome, but increased burden.”