It’s no secret that the EPA’s new Administrator, Scott Pruitt, has focused his efforts squarely on dismantling the agency’s regulatory powers and enabling polluters rather than doing his job to protect the health of American citizens. His recent proposed repeal of the historic Clean Power Plan (CPP) is no different and only serves to exempt one of the biggest sources of carbon pollution, power plants, from any obligation to reduce its emissions. There is no mention of preventing pollution, providing clean air and water, or fighting climate change among the EPA’s reasons to repeal the Clean Power Plan. Instead, the EPA boasts of deregulation and its desire to help ramp up energy production (i.e., dirty energy) in the U.S. In a year with unprecedented climate change-related disasters that have caused loss of life and created immense economic devastation and personal hardship, the EPA’s proposal to repeal the CPP is nothing short of negligence in carrying out its mission protect public health.
“The Clean Power Plan is the most significant federal policy to date to reduce carbon pollution from power plants,” said Charles Griffith, Climate and Energy Program Director for the Ecology Center. “The recent flurry of hurricanes that devastated Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico highlights the need to take stronger action on climate change, not take steps backward like the Trump administration’s proposal.”
What does this mean for Michigan?
While the Michigan electricity sector is making progress toward reducing carbon emissions, in large part due to Michigan’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards which were recently updated, the Clean Power Plan goes further than our current goals and sends a signal that continuing state progress will be needed to help meet national climate emission goals. The Clean Power Plan also holds other states who do not have renewable energy or carbon emission reduction goals in place initiatives accountable to do their part, otherwise laggard states will be able to continue their laggard ways.
One of the other arguments Pruitt’s repeal proposal makes is that the costs of reducing emissions from the power sector are too high. A recent peer-reviewed study conducted at the University of Michigan estimates very different findings from the Trump Administration. Their calculations estimate that NOT acting on carbon emission regulation, in both the automotive and energy industries, will cost considerably more in the long run.
An excerpt from the study states, “Even without considering social and environmental damage costs, delaying aggressive climate action does not reduce CO2 abatement costs even under the most optimistic trajectories for improvements in fuel efficiencies, demand, and technology costs in the U.S. auto and electric sectors. In fact, the abatement cost for both sectors is found to increase sharply with every year of delay beyond 2020.”
Some have also argued that Michigan will comply with CPP standards with or without the federal rule in place. This is only partly true given that current renewable energy and energy efficiency standards are only in place through 2021, the year the CPP would formally take effect. After 2021, emission levels will depend on individual utility plans (called Integrated Resource Plans, or IRPs) that must be approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. Without the Clean Power Plan, there is no guarantee that utility plans will be required to sufficiently factor carbon emissions into their analysis. Additional state legislation increasing renewable energy standards or requiring carbon emission reductions would then be required (but again, would not ensure other states would do the same).
Repealing the Clean Power Plan puts Americans at risk and threatens the health of our families and communities. More than 3,600 deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks could be avoided throughout the nation each year under the CPP’s common sense standards. Clean air and water along with reducing asthma and lung disease should be a top priority of the EPA.
Kindra Weid, a registered nurse, and coordinator at MI Air MI Health expressed her public health concerns in an official statement– “The health of all Michiganders hinges on having clean air to breathe,” Weid said. “Burning coal emits dangerous pollution into our air and water and threatens the health of our most vulnerable populations; dismantling it would be devastating to both environmental and public health for generations to come.”
Exposure to pollution from power plants is linked to asthma, lung and heart disease, birth defects, low birth weight and other health conditions, which is why big utility companies should increase the amount of renewable energy and energy efficiency in their plans and the EPA should mandate reductions of coal-burning plants. The Clean Power Plan vision of expanding clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency will reduce dangerous pollution and protect the health of Michigan families, children and seniors and protect our air, land, and Great Lakes.
The bottom line? We need the Clean Power Plan if we want to see impactful progress toward reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change, as well as reduce other harmful emissions that threaten public health. If the Environmental Protection Agency exists to protect the American people, to protect our health and our environment, then they should reverse their proposal and decide instead to uphold the Clean Power Plan.
Published on October 26, 2017