Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Coal vs EPA: The Benefits of the Clean Power Plan Far Outweigh the Costs

At the end of July the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held four public hearings on its proposed Clean Power Plan in Washington D.C., Atlanta, Denver, and Pittsburgh. The comment period will end Oct. 16, 2014. The EPA expected about 1,600 people would comment during the public hearings. These hearings are in addition to the 300,000 comments already received by the EPA.

The Clean Power Plan is an historic effort to reign in carbon pollution from existing power plants. This is the first time that national standards are being enacted to limit power plant emissions. This major undertaking has very significant benefits. US power plants are the largest single source of carbon pollution in the US accounting for 40 percent of American emissions. According to the EPA these efforts will reduce carbon emissions 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

One of the strengths of the Clean Power Plan is that it is flexible and can be enacted in ways that deal with the unique local realities in each state. In addition to being flexible this plan is affordable and will provide a number of economic benefits. The cost of inaction is simply too high. The annual price tag of inaction has been pegged at $150 billion according to a July White House Report titled "The Cost of Delaying Action to Stem Climate Change." While efforts such as the Clean Power Plan will help the US to save vast sums of money, the failure to act is very costly. For every decade of inaction, the costs to control global warming rise 40 percent.

By reducing particulate matter, the plan to curb emissions from power plants will reduce the adverse health impacts for all Americans but particularly in children and the elderly. It will grow the economy and provide jobs. The EPA estimates the carbon rules will result in economic benefits of $27 to 50 billion each year in 2020, and $49 to 84 billion in 2030. Most importantly it will combat the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Predictably there has been some resistance from conservatives, the fossil fuel industry and their largely Republican allies in Congress. They continue to seek ways of stalling or deriding the process. A coal company along with 9 states even launched a lawsuit to plead for their right to continue to emit dirty climate change causing pollution.

At the end of the day the message from the hearings should be clear, the short term pursuit of profits is trumped by a wealth of economic, health and environmental benefits.

Related Articles
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Infographic - Obama's Clean Power Plan Explained
US GHGs and the EPA's Clean Power Plan (Infographic)
Congresswoman Linda Sanchez in Support of the Clean Power Plan
Support of the EPA's Clean Power Plan

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