NRDC: EPA’s Clean Power Plan Is Economically Beneficial For USA Due To Health Benefits

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“It’s time to act,” says the Natural Resources Defense Council in Clean Power: The Case For Carbon Pollution Limits, its new report (aka R-15-06-B). Widely thought to be the nation’s most effective environmental group, NRDC is calling on us this July to confront climate change, “the greatest environmental threat of our time.”

Climate-change related wildfires encroach on residences in the US West (nrdc.org)

Known for its early disdain of the wiles and red tape of government environmental efforts, in this case the NRDC wholeheartedly supports the nation’s Clean Power Plan. It says, “the centerpiece of President Obama’s climate action initiative… promises to be the most important action the government can take to combat climate change before it’s too late to avoid the worst impacts.”

Says Rhea Suh, NRDC’s president:

NRDC's Clean Power, July 2015 (nrdc.org)“Climate change is the central environmental challenge of our generation. We may be running out of time but, as the Clean Power Plan illustrates, we are not running out of solutions. For the sake of our children and all future generations, we must rise to the challenge. Now.”

Toward that end, NRDC has just published its authoritative factual, effectively illustrated, and brief (about 40 pages) resource book to help separate climate fact from climate fiction regarding carbon pollution limits. Available to all through the internet, the primer should be required reading for US citizens, and especially for politicians and the radical right. It focuses on these areas:

  • Extreme weather,
  • The health imperative,
  • Need to preserve diversity of animal and plant life,
  • Compatibility with strengthening the power grid,
  • National security,
  • Benefits (which far outweigh the costs),
  • Business opportunities,
  • Legal authority, and
  • The moral imperative.

The NRDC report also shows how the public (ordinary Americans, Fortune 500 companies, faith groups, medical organizations, labor groups, + many others) is expressing a desire for action and how elements of the plan are already in progress. As shown in the map, every US state expresses majority support for regulating CO2 as a pollutant, and barely a quarter of Americans oppose it. Download the pdf file here.

Unanimous US support for regulating CO2, state by state (nrdc.org)

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While emissions of arsenic, mercury, and other dangerous pollutants from power plants have already been regulated, NRDC points out that the Clean Power Plan offers the country’s first rules for carbon pollution. Using its authority under the landmark 1963 Clean Air Act and its amendments, the EPA proposed last year that the electric power industry reduce its carbon pollution emissions from existing plants 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

The plan has already been effective in ringing a clear alarm bell about the use of coal and aging coal-fired generators. NRDC believes the nation can cut carbon used for power by 40%—doing even better than the proposed reduction—by scaling up energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Climate change threatens human health (nrdc.org)

Regardless of which goal we reach, NRDC advises that “the Clean Power Plan will move America toward a cleaner, healthier environment for future generations while ensuring an ongoing supply of the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth.” Next week, the EPA will likely issue some final carbon dioxide pollution guidelines, which the states can then tweak until the end of June 2016 to come up with their own carbon-reduction plans. The EPA proposals work neatly without federalization (a key political concern), giving states time and flexibility to develop strategies based on their own circumstances.

Some of the other positive effects of the plan for carbon pollution limits:

  • It will reduce hundreds of thousands of tons of other harmful air pollutants (sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, for example) from existing power plants.
  • The plan is economically beneficial due to its impressive health benefits: every dollar of investment in it will generate $7 worth of health benefits (reduction in asthma attacks, heart attacks, missed school days, absenteeism, and premature deaths.)
  • The plan will lower electric bills and save utility customers almost 10% percent by 2030.
  • It will spark innovation and investment in cleaner energy and low-carbon technologies
  • It will thus generate hundreds of thousands of jobs.

NRDC puts forward an important correlation:

“The plan also is critical to spurring an international agreement to slow the impacts of climate change at this December’s U.N. climate change conference in Paris.”

The international community appreciates leadership from the US government and other major polluting powers in stepping up to the climate challenge. “When the world’s largest economy acts, it sends a powerful signal to other governments that they also can and must act aggressively on climate change,” Jake Schmidt, director of NRDC’s international program, told the House Science Committee in April.

While other countries previously perceived the United States as unwilling to “walk the walk,” President Obama’s recent international efforts and a swell of interest from US business, civil, academic, and popular organizations have revived faith in American concern and its growing leadership. Other nations look with some amazement at the rifts in Washington, which appear to threaten our ability to continue participating effectively in this world fight for life.


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