Energy policy dinosaurs are trying to trample new Environmental Protection Agency rules designed to cut carbon pollution from its most prolific source: coal-fired electricity plants.
Republicans in Congress and 10 governors are fighting the Clean Power Plan, which would regulate carbon dioxide from coal plants. Each state is supposed to draft its own plan. Some governors say they won’t, but that would only result in the Environmental Protection Agency’s writing a state plan for them.
Meanwhile, congressional Republicans threatening to attach budget riders that would kill the federal air-quality plan are setting the table for a showdown that threatens another government shutdown.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has been especially insistent. His lawsuits to block the federal plan have failed, but he is seeking yet another hearing to make the specious argument that 15 years isn’t enough time to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 30 percent of 2005 levels.
Pruitt’s histrionics ignore the consequences of failing to act. The new EPA rules could save up to $93 billion in health-care costs by 2030 while preventing 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children.
Carbon pollution contributes to global warming, which can no longer be dismissed as a fantasy, even by elected officials who appear to be owned by the fossil-fuel industry. Global warming’s impact can be seen in melting glaciers, rising sea levels, droughts, wildfires, and floods, which have taken lives and cost taxpayers billions to repair damages.
The first five months of 2015 were the hottest on record. The 10 hottest years on record have occurred since 1998. Without preventive action now, we can expect more heat waves with devastating effects on people and wildlife. Ocean water will become more acidic and less hospitable for corals and crustaceans. On land, expect more invasive plants and insects that devastate forests.
Opponents of the new emissions plan are calling attention to the jobs in coal and supporting industries that will be lost once the EPA rules go into effect. But a recent Economic Policy Institute analysis indicates that there would be a net gain in employment due to jobs created in the clean-energy and conservation sectors.
In other words, instead of fighting the emissions plan, the governors who oppose it should be putting down their bullhorns and picking up their phones to talk new energy companies into coming to their states to help absorb expected job losses. Workers facing unemployment can be retrained for clean-energy jobs, especially in technical fields that could grow significantly.
There’s no need for this country to act like some dinosaur waiting for climate change to make it extinct. The Clean Power Plan will help accelerate the development of clean, safe, and profitable energy sources that wean us off toxic fuels.