Each month, Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons reflects on issues of importance to our supporters and to the region.
When future historians write the book about climate change, they will surely note August 3, 2015, as the beginning of a new chapter. President Obama’s announcement that day of first-ever regulations to limit carbon pollution from power plants in America — which has one of the largest carbon footprints in the world — marks an unprecedented milestone.
Yet, as important as it is, it’s anything but certain how the story unfolds from here.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed the Clean Power Plan over many years and with millions of public comments. The rule sets a national target of reducing carbon pollution from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030. Though a relatively modest goal, it sends a strong message to other nations that the United States is acting on climate.
In the rule, the EPA gives states tremendous latitude in how they meet their individual emissions targets, and that’s where the rub is. Our concern is that many states will favor more natural gas — which burns cleaner than coal but has serious climate impacts from extraction and transportation — over energy efficiency and renewable sources like solar and wind.
By investing in efficiency and renewables, southeastern states can leverage the Clean Power Plan to create tens of thousands of jobs, help families save money on their monthly electricity bills, and ensure healthier air and water for us and for future generations. These benefits are especially important for low-income communities and coal-impacted areas of Appalachia, which continues to suffer the dire health and economic consequences of mountaintop removal coal mining.
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Shortly after the president’s speech, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe expressed support for the Clean Power Plan, noting the importance of reducing carbon emissions and “creating the next generation of clean energy jobs.” We appreciate the governor’s recognition of America’s changing energy landscape and we’re fully engaged with our partner groups in working with his administration to comply with the new rule to benefit all Virginians.
In North Carolina, however, Governor Pat McCrory took the opposite tack. Despite the fact that North Carolina is currently in an excellent position to easily meet the EPA’s proposed goal for the state, the governor not only helped the state government pass a law blocking implementation of the rule, he vowed to take legal action against the EPA. Appalachian Voices is committed to continue pushing the Tar Heel state in the right direction, and stands willing to work with its leaders to realize clean energy solutions.
We celebrate this new chapter and embrace the work ahead to keep the momentum on our side.
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