EPA proposes historic new limits on pollution from electric generation

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EPA proposes historic new limits on pollution from electric generation

Mon, 06/02/2014 - 12:09pm -- tim

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) on Monday praised the historic announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and President Obama of a plan to cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent by 2030. Leahy was joined in his support of the stricter standards by his Vermont colleagues in Congress, Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch, by Governor Shumlin, and Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell. The move is the latest step under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and will reduce carbon pollution from power plants, which are the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution. Leahy has long championed clean air and water policies and has been the Senate’s leader in pressing for curbs on power plant mercury pollution that has threatened the nation’s waterways and fisheries, and particularly the health of young children. The president signled out Vermont's efforts in carbon control. Vermont is also the only state in New England without a baseload fossil fuel power plant.

Following is Leahy’s statement on the EPA announcement.

“The era of letting energy companies put profits over people -- harming our health, endangering our more vulnerable citizens, and scarring the planet -- must finally end.  For the good of our generation and future generations, the President has shown the courage and the foresight to do what has long been overdue.

“Today the Environmental Protection Agency has announced new, flexible, commonsense guidelines to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector across the country.  They were crafted with feedback from businesses and from state and local governments.

“This historic step is not based on theory but on sound science and long experience with the effects of this major, unchecked source of pollution in communities across the nation.  This is tangible progress in turning the corner toward a healthier and more sustainable clean energy economy.

“The President is right to push to address this climate crisis, which will be catastrophic for future generations if we do not act now.  The EPA is doing just what Congress and the Supreme Court has directed under the Clean Air Act:  If a pollutant endangers public health and welfare, it must be limited.  As a parent and grandparent, I believe that we must confront this crisis for the sake of generations to come.  As the people of Vermont saw firsthand when Hurricane Irene tore through our state, the effects of climate change are already being felt, and the dangers we face are far too great to risk inaction.

“This plan will also result in a reduction in particulate matter and ozone emissions, which will prevent thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks.  I am pleased that this plan will allow flexibility for states and will help to create a much-needed surge in renewable energy and efficiency investments.  This means new jobs in manufacturing, building trades and construction industries across the country.

“The effects of climate change may be hard to measure with precision, but surely we can all agree that taking steps to mitigate environmental impacts of harmful pollutants that have an adverse impact on the health and well-being of children and adults benefits us all.  This is a meaningful step that will make a real difference in the lives of all Americans now and in the future, and I applaud and support the President’s initiative.”

US Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) also welcomed the Obama administration initiative to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, but the senator said real progress on global warming has been blocked by Republicans in Congress who have thwarted every measure to confront a planetary crisis that they deny is happening.   

“I applaud the EPA’s proposal for common-sense standards to reduce the carbon pollution that causes global warming. Much more must be done to avoid a planetary crisis, but reducing emissions from dirty coal-fired power plants is a good step. Shutting down old, dirty power plants and replacing them with solar, wind and other renewable and sustainable sources of energy will also create hundreds of thousands of jobs and save consumers billions of dollars,” Sanders said.

Vermont is the only state not covered under the US Environmental Protection Agency rule proposed today because the state does not have any fossil fuel-fired power plants. Under the proposal, Vermont may collaborate with other states in the New England region to meet a multi-state goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In unveiling the proposal, the Obama administration specifically cited Efficiency Vermont as a model for utilities around the country. Efficiency Vermont provides technical assistance, rebates, and other financial incentives to help Vermont households and businesses become more energy-efficient in order to reduce their energy costs.

“Vermont is leading the way,” Sanders said. I congratulate Efficiency Vermont for being cited as a national model and for other efforts underway in Vermont to address global warming.”

More must be done at the national and international level to address climate change, added Sanders, a member of the Senate environment and energy committees. Along with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sanders has proposed a tax on carbon and methane emissions. Their bill would offer rebates to consumers to help offset the rising cost of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. It also would create millions of jobs by investing in a transformation of our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

Another Sanders bill would end tax breaks and subsidies for oil and coal companies. A companion measure in the House is sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

Everywhere but in Congress, there is a growing consensus that a tax on carbon and methane emissions is needed. Both the carbon tax and ending subsidies for coal and oil companies are ideas backed by scientists and leading economists. The legislation has been blocked by Republicans in Congress who reject the overwhelming conclusion – some even call it a “hoax” – that climate change is occurring and that it is man-made.

To read more about the Sanders-Boxer legislation, click here

Governor Shumlin issued the following statement:

“I applaud the Obama administration's new regulations on carbon-producing power plants. Here in Vermont, we are aggressively pursuing an agenda focused on affordable, reliable, and renewable energy, and we welcome today's announcement. We cannot act soon enough to reduce our carbon footprint and aggressively pursue a renewable energy future.

“The threats that climate change pose to Vermont and its future are already too evident. In just the first eight months of my first term in office, our state faced several emergency-level storms that are proof of a changing climate – including Tropical Storm Irene, which claimed the lives of six Vermonters and destroyed many of our roads and bridges.

“Vermont is not alone. As the National Climate Assessment recently made clear, the rest of the Northeast is already experiencing adverse effects of climate change, including increases in heavy precipitation and resulting damages to property and infrastructure, heat waves that threaten public health, and stresses placed on our unique ecosystems.

“In our state, we have shown the way forward through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which has helped Vermont and eight other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states reduce carbon pollution from the power sector while increasing our use of clean energy. Today's announcement from the EPA points the nation in the same direction Vermont and our neighbors have already pursued, and we look forward to continuing to lead the nation to a more affordable, low-cost energy future.”

“Climate change is real and poses a serious threat to our economy, environment and public health," said Representative Peter Welch (D-Vermont). And Vermont is not immune from its effects.  Just ask our farmers, sugar makers and ski area operators.  They will tell you how climate change is already upon them.  Across the country, severe weather events related to climate change, like Tropical Storm Irene, are becoming more commonplace.

“Every day we wait makes solving this problem much more difficult. The current Congress simply cannot find common ground on addressing this issue. Incredibly, the Republican-led House just passed an amendment banning the Pentagon from studying the impact of climate change on national security.  So I am pleased that the President, in the face of climate change denial by Congress, has taken bold action today, using the executive authority available to him, to tackle one of the leading causes of climate change.

“EPA’s plan is a flexible, common sense approach to reducing power plant emissions that allows states and utilities to tailor remedies to local and regional circumstances.  I am particularly pleased that this plan promotes energy efficiency as a key remedy to carbon emissions.  Vermont has led the nation on energy efficiency and is reaping the benefits of lower electric bills, good jobs, and a cleaner environment.”   

“We at GMP support these goals and view the new proposal as a positive move toward a cleaner, more cost-effective and reliable energy future,” said Mary Powell, president and CEO of Green Mountain Power.  “GMP is also embracing an energy future that has more customers powering their own homes and businesses, which is why we are working so hard to continue to increase the availability of solar power. In addition, GMP’s investments in smart grid technology, renewable resources, and practical efficiency products for customers - exemplified by our Energy home of the Future in Rutland and efforts to make Rutland the energy city of the future - will save customers money and reduce fossil fuel use.”“Vermonters will benefit from EPA’s landmark proposal. I commend President Obama and EPA for recognizing the threat that climate change poses to human health, the economy and the environment.” Attorney General Sorrell said. “Today EPA, for the first time, takes critical steps to cut greenhouse gas pollution from our nation’s single largest source, existing fossil fuel power plants.”

“EPA’s proposal affirms that state and regional efforts such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and Efficiency Vermont can serve as a catalyst and foundation for future federal actions,” Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Deb Markowitz said. “The public health, climate, and economic benefits to Vermonters will be significant.”

Existing fossil fuel power plants are the single largest source of climate change pollution, emitting roughly one-third of the nation’s total emissions. In 2006 Vermont joined a coalition of states and cities in a lawsuit seeking to force EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants under the Clean Air Act. In March 2011, the coalition reached final settlement of that case, resulting in EPA committing to a schedule to set emission limits. This led to EPA’s proposed limits for climate change pollution from new power plants in September 2013 and its proposed limits for existing power plants today.

The proposed rule, on which the public can comment on to EPA, provides states with flexibility to meet the needed reductions cost-effectively.

Source: WASHINGTON (MONDAY, June 2) -- Leahy, Sanders, Welch, Shumlin, GMP, Sorrell.