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Misunderstood Clean Power Plan Reduces Hardship Across The Board

CP:CS brief coverPresident Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (June 2, 2014), a far-reaching measure that limits the amount of carbon the United States electric power industry can emit to the atmosphere, has received two down votes from the United States Senate and is on its way to a similar fate in the House of Representatives. Also, 26 state governments have filed lawsuits against the plan.

xThe power plant limitation rule, which was in the works for years, has already been finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan sets state targets for reducing carbon pollution and should cut pollution from power plants by about a third (32%) from 2005 levels by 2030. (See map produced from National Conference of State Legislatures data via Deseret News.)

As I noted in CleanTechnica earlier this year:

“It establishes the first-ever national standards to limit atmospheric carbon pollution from power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States. It follows on from other successful public health measures by reducing soot and other toxic emissions, aiming to reap continuing and increased benefits from the landmark bipartisan Clean Air Act the United States enacted over 45 years ago.”

The Clean Power Plan is also a key element of the proposed American strategy in the worldwide offensive on anthropogenic climate change. Despite the recent bloodshed in Paris, the UN will go forward there at the end of next week with its keystone meeting on curbing climate change.

Now, as Samantha Page of ThinkProgress points out:

Numerous polls have found that American voters—including Republicans—broadly favor reducing carbon emissions from power plants. New data from the Sierra Club this week found that voters in several states are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports the Clean Power Plan, and they trust the EPA more than Congress when it comes to pollution.”

Why, then, are some US conservatives still trying to roll back the clock? The opinion expressed by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Kentucky) starkly differs from the conclusions of these polls:

“The Obama Administration is trying to impose deeply regressive energy regulations that would eliminate good-paying jobs, punish the poor, and make it even harder for Kentuckians to put food on the table. Their effect on the global carbon levels: essentially a rounding error. Their effect on poor and middle-class families: potentially devastating.”

“Potentially” is the key word in the last sentence, because it includes “potentially not.” A just-released study from Public Citizen, a national nonprofit organization heading toward half a million members and supporters, shows that the Clean Power Plan will lower electricity bills in every state in the country, cutting at least $100 from the electric bills of each power consumer. The retail price of electricity will rise modestly compared to business-as-usual, but the rule will motivate energy efficiency moves that will more than make up for it.

From the Clean Power, ClearSavings study, details on the wide choice of methods available to states:

“Under the plan, the EPA has set carbon-reduction targets for the states, and the states choose how to meet the targets. States can opt to meet either a rate-based goal, meaning a target rate of CO2 emissions expressed in pounds per megawatt hour of electricity produced, or a mass-based goal, meaning a target measured in short tons of CO2 emitted. States can use a mix of different strategies to hit their targets—improving the efficiency of existing coal-fired power plants, shifting some electricity generation from coal to natural gas plants, shifting to renewable energy sources, or using energy efficiency to reduce electricity consumption.”

The Public Citizen study considers both rate-based and mass-based scenarios. By 2030, bills are down in every state under either scenario. Those with the best savings picture may include Arizona, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and most of New England.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy sees most of the controversy over the plan as emanating from Washington DC and not from the states. It has also provided a convenient rallying cry in presidential election politics. League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinksi views the Senate move as “nothing more than a desperate and ultimately symbolic attempt by Senate Republican leadership to stop historic climate progress.”

McCarthy considers the legislation as a logical continuance of the 40-year-old Clean Air Act and predicts that the clean power rules will survive the challenges in Congress, any court actions, and also the vicissitudes of the presidential campaign. President Obama has promised to veto any new congressional opposition. Perhaps most telling of all, states and utilities are already planning changes and taking measures to comply.

Many US power plants are already working on elements of the Clean Power Plan (switchboard.nrdc.org)

Many US power plants like these are already working on elements of the Clean Power Plan (NRDC data).

 
 
 
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covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

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