Conservative media are claiming that Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy admitted she is waging a "war on coal" when, in fact, she has consistently stated that the EPA is simply meeting its obligation to serve public health with its new clean power plan.
In an interview with McCarthy on the June 13 edition of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, host Maher said that he has heard that the EPA's proposed "Clean Power Plan," which will for the first time implement standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants, amounts to "a war on coal," adding that he "hope[s] it is." McCarthy responded, "Actually, EPA is all about fighting against pollution and fighting for public health. That's exactly what this is." Maher responded "Oh, great."
The Weekly Standard declared that this meant that McCarthy "agreed with Bill Maher" that "the Obama administration is engaged in a war on coal." National Review, Twitchy and EHS Today all concurred. However, even the conservative Washington Examiner concluded that "[i]t appears Maher's glee was premature" after an EPA spokesperson clarified that McCarthy was not agreeing with Maher and has consistently stated that the agency is not waging a "war on coal."
Indeed, McCarthy has always responded to claims that the EPA is waging a "war on coal" by explaining that the agency is simply serving its public health mandate and that it is not "fair" to claim the EPA is targeting any one energy source without regard for the facts. For example, McCarthy's testimony before Congress earlier this year:
SEN. DEB FISCHER (R-NE): And do you think it's fair to say -- maybe the EPA has somewhat of a war on coal so that we can lessen our dependence upon coal in this country?
McCARTHY: Senator, I -- I don't think that that's fair to say. What we're trying to do is our job to protect public health by reducing pollution from some of the largest sources ...
McCARTHY: Of those pollutions. [Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hearing, 3/26/14, via Nexis, emphasis added]
And in an interview with The New York Times:
"We don't have a war on coal," [McCarthy] said. "We're doing our business, which is to reduce pollution. We're following the law."
And an interview with Bloomberg News about the carbon pollution standards:
PETER COOK (Bloomberg News): The argument is this is a war on coal. You are putting coal out of business with this proposal.
McCARTHY: Well if you take a look at it, what we're projecting is that coal in 2030 will still be a very significant portion of the electric generating capacity here. And what we're hoping that folks will do is realize that this is an opportunity to actually make investments in coal, to make them more efficient so that we can have the best and cleanest facilities moving forward. But the ultimate choice is going to be up to the states. Do they want to shift towards more renewables? Do they want to focus on energy efficiency? Do they want to do all of those things together?
And we'll see how they end up, but we know that the - that the reductions that we put in state by state were based on what - what states are doing today and what we think they can do in each of those states moving forward in a way that will maintain reliability and affordability of the electricity supply. But every fuel will have a place moving forward. They just have to get cleaner. And in the end, we have to produce the carbon reductions that we need for public health. [Bloomberg TV, 6/3/14, via Nexis, emphasis added]
The so-called "war on coal" is empty political rhetoric. Here are facts that put the EPA's plan in context -- facts you likely won't hear from The Weekly Standard or National Review:
On the April 5th edition of Real Time with Bill Maher, science education activist Zack Kopplin confronted The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore over myths about science funding, pointing out that Moore, who questioned the need for funding research on "snail mating habits," is "not a scientist":
As it turns out, the reason actual scientists are conducting this type of research is because snails carry parasitic worms that kill children:
On Real Time, Bill Maher said to Chris Matthews: "I heard you say on your show, you were talking about Barack Obama and you said -- and I know you like him. But you said when he goes into a diner, he can't ask the average guy, you know, how the Phillies doing and all that stuff. And you said he was -- at one point, he was offered coffee and he turned it down and asked if he could have orange juice instead." After Matthews said, "Yeah," Maher continued: "First of all, Chris, you don't understand black people. They like juice. Preferably gin and juice." In response, Matthews replied: "No, no. Not true. Let me, you know, it's -- you walk into a diner, one of these things where grumpy old men are hanging around because they don't want to be at home with their wives for an hour a morning and they're hanging around there."