A top Environmental Protection Agency official said privately that the agency wants coal communities to "go away," but the agency chief defended a rule imposing strict limits on carbon output in more detached terms.
"We are simply applying the law as it was intended to a pollutant that is regulated under the Clean Air Act," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told reporters Friday morning at the National Press Club. "We are not making a statement with this rule, nor would we ever, about some independent choice about what fuels we like or don't like."
Under the rule, "new coal-fired power plants would need to install expensive technology to capture carbon dioxide and bury it underground," the Associated Press explains. "No coal-fired power plant has done that yet, in large part because of the cost." The new rule does not affect natural gas plants, which already meet the standard due to their lower emissions.
EPA New England regional administrator Curt Spalding explained the significance of this rule when McCarthy's predecessor, Lisa Jackson, proposed it in 2012 --- though he emphasized that the agency couldn't state this reasoning publicly.
"You can't imagine how tough that was, because --- you got to remember --- if you go to West Virginia, Pennsylvania and all those places, you have coal communities who depend on coal," Spalding said at a Yale University forum in March 2012. "And to say, 'We just think those communities should just go away' --- we can't do that. But she had to do what the law and policy suggested, and it's painful. It is painful every step of the way."