The White House has come out with a sweeping strategy to limit climate change. The so-called Clean Power Plan requires every state to play a role in cutting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. So how would the plan affect Ohio?
The world of utilities, coal and environmental advocates have been following this development for years—waiting to see what President Barack Obama’s official plan would be to take on climate change.
The Clean Power Plan—implemented by the U.S. EPA—calls for a 32% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. While announcing the plan in the White House, Obama said this is comparable to other pollution regulations.
“We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and sulfur and arsenic in our air and water and we’re better off for it. But existing power plants can still dump unlimited amounts of harmful carbon pollution into the air,” Obama said.
Environmental groups are celebrating the plan and say this will go a long way in curbing greenhouse gases.
The plan specifically calls on Ohio to reduce its carbon emissions by about 28% by 2030. It’s now up to the state’s EPA to come up with a plan to comply. Samantha Williams with the Natural Resources Defense Council said the plan allows for a good amount of flexibility. She adds that the renewable and efficiency standards created by Ohio lawmakers in 2008 would go a long way towards helping the state reach this goal.
“We’re already ahead of the game because we have efficiency and renewable standards just waiting to be leveraged. Unfortunately they were frozen for two years in Senate Bill 310. We can get back on track by simply pressing the restart button and we should do that as soon as possible,” said Williams.
The bill that froze the standards also created the Energy Mandates Study Committee, which is expected to put out a report on the cost efficiency of those standards later this year.
While environmental advocates praise the announcement—the state’s coal industry has a much different take. Christian Palich is president of the Ohio Coal Association. He said this plan falls in line with the efforts of radical environmentalists and ends up hurting Ohio.
“Ohio’s unique in that we have a great manufacturing and business infrastructure that relies on affordable energy that coal provides. And with this plan that is going to be significantly reduced,” said Palich.
Many supporters believe this plan will become a foundational block to Obama’s presidential legacy, along with health care reform and gay rights. But there is a strong possibility that the plan will come under legal attack.
Palich said the Ohio Coal Association is exploring all legal options.
And Ohio’s EPA Director Craig Butler even issued a statement questioning the legal authority of these rules. Butler believes the plan goes beyond what Congress intended when it created the Clean Air Act. He said he’d like the courts to review the plan and make sure they are—in his words—“reasonable, justified and consistent with Congressional intent.”
Williams with the NRDC said the plan seems to have strong legal footing and added that the EPA provided plenty of time for stakeholder input.
Palich wasn’t as impressed.
“I think that the comment period was nothing more than a dog and pony show on the way to a politically motivated result. I mean the place where they held their big stakeholder meetings were places like San Francisco, Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh—hours or more drive from coal country,” Palich said.
Obama addressed the wave of criticism that was expected to come following his announcement by admitting that it will be a challenge but that it’s worth the effort.
“We can figure this stuff out. As long as we’re not lazy about it. As long as we don’t take the path of least resistance. Scientists, citizens, workers, entrepreneurs together as Americans we disrupt those stale, old debates—end old ways of thinking,” said Obama.
Ohio has a few years to come up with a final draft to comply. The EPA developed a plan that would take over for any state that declines to regulate their own power plants.