Heat-trapping greenhouse gases and toxic particles spew from the smokestacks of coal-fired powerplants all through the Rust Belt.

We don’t have those kinds of plants here in Maine, but we have plenty of evidence that they exist.

Our winters are wetter and shorter than they used to be, thanks to climate change. Lobstermen report that their quarry is moving north and east to find colder water.

And Maine children have some of the highest rates of asthma in the nation, partly as a result of our position downwind from the power plants in the Midwest and Great Lakes states, putting young lungs at the end of the nation’s tailpipe.

So Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt’s boast Monday that “The war on coal is over!” probably sounded like great news to a few hundred people in Kentucky and West Virginia who might get work as a result of his upending the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan rules, but it should be clear why he didn’t make that announcement here.

Maine will be a big loser both environmentally and economically if Pruitt is successful, and Maine’s leaders should fight to make sure that he doesn’t succeed.


One third of the greenhouse gases emitted in this country come from fossil fuel-burning power plants, mostly coal and natural gas. The Clean Power Plan created a financial incentive to produce less pollution over time. Since coal plants are the dirtiest, logic would dictate that they would be the first to go.

That might be bad news in the short term for people who own mining companies or utility stock, but it would speed the transition to other sources of power that do not have the same negative effects. The number of jobs in the solar power industry has already outstripped the number of jobs in coal mining, and it’s reasonable to assume that the trend will continue, as solar collector and battery technology get less expensive and more effective.

The Clean Power Plan would also level the economic playing field for Maine, which has to compete with parts of the country where electricity produced at dirty power plants is cheap. Not only do we have to pay more for our power than consumers in the coal belt, but we have to live with the consequences of the pollution that they produce.

And more importantly, there is no safe amount of pollution. Research by the American Lung Association has confirmed that every reduction of toxic chemicals in the air we breath correlates to a reduction in illness and death. Children are especially sensitive to diseases caused by exposure to the airborne particles that are blown here on prevailing winds.

Pruitt claims that he is protecting the American people from government, but this is a time when we need the government to protect us from those who would value cheap electricity and quarterly profits above the public well-being.

By announcing an end to “the war on coal,” Pruitt and the administration are ramping up the war on clean air and a healthy environment. At this end of the tailpipe, that’s nothing to celebrate.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: