Gutting the Clean Power Plan

As the impacts of climate change hit home in another summer of regrettable records such as the massive megafires that are burning in California and the red tide that is decimating Florida’s coasts, the Administration continues its efforts to dismantle federal progress made towards a more sustainable climate.  This time, the Environmental Protection Agency is seeking to replace the first ever federal carbon pollution standards for power plants – called the Clean Power Plan – with a meaningless, check-the-box rule that is a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry and may actually drive up emissions.  It also does not comply with the law.

This moves follows an October 2017 announcement that EPA intends to entirely repeal the Clean Power Plan.  However, because of two Supreme Court decisions and a 2009 EPA finding that carbon pollution threatens public health and welfare, EPA is legally required to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

EPA Goes Backwards on Climate Progress

The EPA’s new rule is a giveaway to the coal industry. Flickr photo by gvgoebel

As such, to replace the Clean Power Plan, EPA has released a new plan.  It guts the main framework of the Clean Power Plan, which sets meaningful carbon pollution reduction limits based largely on each state’s ability to switch from dirty power sources like to coal to cleaner ones like wind and solar.  The replacement plan only asks for modest upgrades to coal plants and will let states relax standards for coal plants that need upgrades, meaning they can keep operating longer.  It may actually increase emissions by encouraging these dirty plants to operate longer, rather than switching to cleaner generating sources.  This could not only lead to more carbon pollution, but more other pollution that will increase instances of serious health problems like childhood asthma.

In response to this announcement, NWF President and CEO Collin O’Mara said:

Reducing carbon emissions from power plants and other sources is an essential component of confronting the monumental problem of climate change. The EPA’s strategy is as ill-conceived as it is ill-timed to coincide with the tragedies fueled by a changing climate that communities are experiencing from coast to coast. The EPA should reverse course on this proposed rule—and Congress should pursue innovative, swift climate solutions, such as Congressman Carlos Curbelo’s market-driving approach to reduce emissions.

Americans Want Action to Address the Climate Crisis

Climate change is already creating unprecedented megafires that are plaguing the West. Oregon Department of Forestry / Flickr

Americans are realizing the urgent threat climate change presents to wildlife, our communities, and our economy.  As a result, most Americans support reducing carbon emissions and developing clean, renewable technology like wind and solar.  The Clean Power Plan represented an opportunity to reduce harmful pollution 32% by 2030 – the equivalent of taking about 70 million cars off the road.

This new rule will effectively wipe out those gains unless other action is taken.

Climate & the Wildlife Crisis

Our wildlife are in crisis, with a third of species in decline.  Climate change greatly exacerbates this decline.  Sadly, unchecked climate change will drive many species to extinction.

The effects are already alarming.  Streams are becoming too warm for trout, moose are declining in northern states due to increasing temperatures that allow parasitic ticks to weaken moose calves, habitat for pika and wolverines is shrinking, sea level rise is claiming breeding habitat for sea turtles and shore birds, and a host of other climate related threats is increasing in intensity every year, with dire effects.

Congress and Others Must Act

Climate action is needed to protect wildlife. (photo credit: London Array)

The planned repeal and replacement of the Clean Power Plan is just the latest in a long list of rollbacks to sensible regulations.  This list includes suspending and likely rescinding a rule aimed at curbing on methane  waste, which is a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas drilling on public lands; the announced withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement where the international community committed to keeping the planet safe; abandoning efforts to ensure coal mining on public lands accounts for carbon pollution; cutbacks in funding for climate science; and a host of other moves undermining efforts to address climate change.  It is clear that we must look beyond this Administration to tackle the climate crisis for wildlife.

With have limited time.  The impacts of climate change are growing and multiplying.  And they will only get worse.  Congress must step up and pass a price on carbon.  There are signs of progress.  For the first time, a Republican introduced a bill that would put in place a meaningful carbon tax that, if enacted, would help drive down carbon pollution in line with the Paris climate agreement.

Meanwhile, states, cities, and the private sector must continue to make decisions that advance clean energy.  The market is already favoring clean sources like wind and solar.  And offshore wind, which is now spinning off the coast of Rhode Island, promises a vast, new source of clean, wildlife friendly energy.

Progress is still too slow.  By replacing the Clean Power Plan, the Administration took another step back.  Congress, states, leaders in business, and others should answer by taking steps forward. Call on Congress to step up and lead on climate action!

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