Local governments respond to EPA demands for CO2 reduction
The Environmental Protection Agency has mandated a 30 percent reduction from 2005 levels in carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 2030. While this may be good news for the environment, some worry it will be detrimental to local economies – especially those still reliant on coal.
The EPA says power plants account for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, and that by making the proposed cuts, the nation will see up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits and begin to reverse the effects of climate change, disasters related to which cost the economy more than $100 billion in 2012. The EPA called its Clean Power Plan, “a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution.”
"We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement. "Our action will sharpen America's competitive edge, spur innovation and create jobs."
But community leaders from Pennsylvania – a state which still relies on coal production – disagree. “This proposal is bad for the economy," John Pippy, CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance told National Public Radio. "We think it’s bad for Pennsylvania, and we think it does not achieve any of the environmental goals the president said it would.”
Pippy told NPR the plan will be devastating to his state’s coal industry, adding that the 30 percent reduction isn’t realistic.
“There really isn’t any way to do that currently with available technology for the current coal fleet to meet that standard, so it’s a de-facto ban on the existing coal fleet with no way to replace that in a cost-effective manner,” Pippy said.
But the plan’s flexibility is touted as a means to soften the blow. “The proposal is meaningful, yet flexible,” Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said in a statement. “It provides states and localities with an ability to tailor their programs to the unique characteristics of their individual economies. It allows more time to develop state strategies. And it credits past actions that states have taken to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”
Some environmental groups, while praising any move to limit carbon dioxide from existing power plants, consider the new proposed standard relatively easy to meet, according to CBS News.
The EPA plan starts from a 2005 CO2 baseline. Since that time, the industry as a whole has already cut carbon dioxide pollution by 15 percent, from 2.4 billion metric tons in 2005 to 2.05 billion metric tons in 2013, according U.S. Energy Information Administration statistics. This leaves just 15 percent to go to meet the EPA mandates.
Still, the implementation will be difficult work. “The regulatory and resources challenges that lie ahead are daunting,” said Becker. “Overcoming these challenges will require a heavy lift by all levels of government, particularly state and local.”
According to the EPA, the Clean Power Plan will be implemented through a state-federal partnership in which states will create a plan using electricity production and pollution control policies to meet the proposal’s goals.
Plans will be due in June 2016, according to the EPA. Included in the proposal is a timeline for states to follow for submitting plans to the agency.
Some local leaders are welcoming the changes. "I encourage cities to rally behind the Administration's goal to substantially reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power facilities, for the health of our communities and the nation," National League of Cities President Chris Coleman and mayor of Saint Paul, Minn., said in a statement. "Each city, community and state has different strategies to mitigate carbon pollution. We urge the administration to continue giving local governments the flexibility needed to tailor solutions that best fit the needs of their residents and businesses as they work to reach or exceed the 30 percent reduction goal."