Obama cleans up on climate change plan
President Obama (D) announced this past Monday the final version of the Clean Power Plan, which is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030 to combat climate change compared with 2005 levels.
Environmental experts hailed it as an important step, giving the president a chance to lead by example at a global climate conference in Paris starting Nov. 30.
“This is the biggest emission reduction of greenhouse gases that any president has ever achieved,” said Judi Greenwald, deputy director for Climate, Environment, and Energy Efficiency at the Department of Energy.
Environmental and health groups have lifted their green thumbs in approval.
According to the American Lung Association, the plan will prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed days of work and school by 2030.
“This is a president who said the time to act is now and he’s followed through,” said Lyndsay Moseley Alexander, director of the healthy air campaign at the ALA. She said she was pleased to see the target increased from the level in the draft form last year, which was 30 percent.
“We don’t often see the rules strengthened when they’re finalized,” she said.
The states have considerable control: They now have until 2022, two more years than in the draft proposal, to begin complying; and they have until 2018 to create their own plans. If they do nothing, the federal government can create plans for them.
Given that the states can comply with the plan in their own way, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provided a rough estimate of 415 million less short tons of carbon dioxide in the air in 2030 with the plan than without it.
Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is a funded primarily by the DOE, has a team of scientists dedicated to energy security, which conducts just the type of renewable energy research outlined in the plan.
“This clean power plan will spur the adoption of cleaner technologies that are being developed” at BNL and other national laboratories, Greenwald said. “We really are going in a direction toward much cleaner power systems. This will accelerate that and will provide a market for the technologies.”
While Congress will determine future funding, the Clean Power Plan could provide an additional boost during appropriations.
“We’ll absolutely be working with our lab champions in Congress, who obviously include lots of members, to push for the most robust funding we can get for the department and the labs so we can get a lot of these technologies out of the lab” and into the field, said Eben Burnham-Snyder, deputy communications director at the DOE.
Some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have suggested the new limits would cause hardship in his state and would hurt the national economy. He has suggested he would use every means at his disposal to fight the plan.
Margot Garant, mayor of Port Jefferson, got behind the plan.
“It’s totally in line with repowering the industry,” said Garant. “This, as far as I’m concerned, gives PSEG another shot in the arm to take down these legacy plants, repower then with clean, efficient plants.”
Garant said the plan, at first blush, didn’t appear “unrealistic.”
Cheap natural gas, a tough recession, the rise of wind power and improved efficiency have already reduced power plant emissions by 15 percent from 2005 to 2013.