Yesterday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released the final version of the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever national rule limiting carbon pollution from existing power plants to safeguard public health and help address climate disruption.
Essential to this plan is reducing the demand for electricity from dirty fossil fuels by increasing energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable resources like wind and solar. This approach will have significant benefits for all American families, particularly in the Appalachian region where residents stand to gain from cleaner water and air, a stronger economy and a safer future.
During the press conference, EPA Secretary Gina McCarthy spoke first, calling the announcement a “Wickedly cool moment” and noting that “One thing is crystal clear: to [act on climate] is a moral responsibility.”
President Obama spoke next, saying “This is about the reality of what we’re living with every day, right now. The Pentagon says climate change poses immediate risk to our national security.” He cited stronger storms, deeper droughts, wildfires and shrinking ice caps as key indicators, as well as health effects such as childhood asthma, which has more than doubled in the past three decades.
“We are the first generation to feel the effect of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it,” he quoted. “If we don’t get it right, we may not be able to reverse it, we may not be able to adapt sufficiently.”
“There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change,” the president continued. “But that shouldn’t make us hopeless, it’s not as if there’s nothing we can do about it. We can take action.”
Over the next few years each state will have chance to tailor its own plan to cut carbon pollution and meet the new standards. He noted that the idea of setting standards is not radical, and that more than 35 states had already set their own renewable energy targets before the final plan’s announcement.
The goal? According to the president, “By 2030, carbon pollution will be 32% lower than it was a decade ago…keeping 872 million tons of carbon pollution out of our atmosphere.”
Some critics claim that minority and low-income communities will suffer from implementation of the Clean Power Plan, but Obama countered that those Americans suffer more than anyone else from carbon pollution.
“Today an African-American child is more than twice as likely to be hospitalized from asthma, a Latino child is 40 percent more likely to die from asthma,” he noted. “So if you care about low-income minority communities, start protecting the air they breathe and stop trying to rob them of their healthcare.”
Reactions to the announcement have been swift and varied. In our region, Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia eagerly supported the plan, while NC Governor Pat McCrory not only opposed the rule, he announced he plans to legally challenge it.
Appalachian Voices’ Executive Director Tom Cormons responded to the release:
“Today’s announcement marks a critical opportunity to shift toward cleaner, more sustainable ways to power our lives and in turn create a major economic boost to our region.
By leveraging the Clean Power Plan, states across the Southeast can create tens of thousands of clean energy jobs by expanding energy efficiency and renewable energy markets. In addition to new jobs and a stronger economy, the Clean Power Plan will save Americans money on their monthly electricity bills. These opportunities are especially important for low income communities and areas directly impacted by recent changes in energy markets.”
Our carbon experts on staff will be digging into the language of the Clean Power Plan in the coming days and weeks, and will release a more detailed analysis soon. In the meantime, to learn more visit the White House’s informational site on the plan.