Editorial: New EPA regulations are a sobering dose of reality

Editorial: New EPA regulations are a sobering dose of reality

The Port Jefferson Power Station. Photo by Raymond Janis

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new regulations concerning power plants could have dramatic consequences for communities across the North Shore.

The EPA is proposing emissions caps and further guidelines for fossil-fuel-burning power plants. 

The proposed guidelines aim to “set limits for new gas-fired combustion turbines, existing coal, oil and gas-fired steam generating units, and certain existing gas-fired combustion turbines,” according to an EPA statement.

While we certainly acknowledge the need for government to intervene in the spread of planet-warming carbon, we expect these regulations to have severe consequences for our local communities.

Generations ago, residents of Port Jefferson and Northport planned their communities around these power plant facilities. Power plants have represented a lucrative tax base for these communities, subsidizing several important community ends.

In exchange for the industrial activities taking place at these plants, residents saw opportunities — opportunities for better schools, better services and a better way of life. Now these opportunities may remain only aspirational.

Local governments and school districts are already struggling as it is. Between inflation and rising costs, further declines in public revenue will only compound the financial troubles of our public institutions. Yet, despite the challenges ahead, plans must start moving now.

At the local level, municipalities and school districts that rely upon LIPA subsidies should begin imagining a future in which those subsidies no longer exist. If plants start shuttering, public officials will be tasked with plugging enormous holes in their budgets. What are their plans to do that?

We are seeing warming temperatures and the changing climate affecting a wide array of local issues. From coastal erosion to prolonged droughts to intensifying flooding and countless other concerns, this global environmental phenomenon is already reshaping our local policies — and soon our bottom line.

Using fossil-fuel-powered plants to subsidize our way of life has become increasingly untenable. Municipal and school district officials may soon face some extremely uncomfortable discretionary choices.

For this reason, it is time for our leaders to adopt a policy of radical acceptance and realism. Relocating waterfront properties inland, conserving our scarce water supply and protecting open spaces are some ways to meet this moment. But the necessary conversations about taxes and budgets need to happen as well.

With a new frame of mind, we can rise to the challenges ahead. We can adapt our communities to the changing environment. 

With a clear focus and sober long-term thinking, let us cease denying the transformations happening before our eyes. Instead let us plan to deal with them.