BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released its long-awaited Clean Power Plan, a set of rules designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Overall, the plan seeks to bring carbon pollution down 32 percent compared with 2005 levels. States are given targets based on their current energy mix, and are encouraged to partner with business and neighboring states to find the solutions that work best for them.
“A strong Clean Power Plan is a hopeful step in the right direction for the health of Alabamians and for everyone with whom we share our precious planet,” said GASP Executive Director Stacie M. Propst, PhD. “The scientific community is way ahead of the political will for change and now we are ready to employ existing technologies to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and prevent harmful air pollution.”
From the beginning of the process, Alabama has been fighting the Clean Power Plan tooth and nail. (For example: here and here.) Despite the state’s efforts, the Clean Power Plan is here and electric utilities like Alabama Power now must comply with the regulations.
“The science shows that climate change is already posing risks to our health and our economy. The Clean Power Plan will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment now and for future generations.”
President of the Alabama Public Service Commission Twinkle Cavanaugh said last year, “If I thought this had a health benefit, I would be looking at it with a different eye.” Perhaps she should take a second look, because the Clean Power Plan does indeed offer many health benefits. One study even found that the plan to reduce carbon pollution could result in “lower electricity bills, greater GDP growth, and significant reductions in SO2, NOx, and mercury emissions.”
What are the health benefits? The EPA announcement spells it out: “The Clean Power Plan will avoid up to 3,600 premature deaths, lead to 90,000 fewer asthma attacks in children, and prevent 300,000 missed work and school days.”
Those numbers are staggering.
Who is most at risk? As with most environmental health risks, those who suffer the most are children, the elderly, the poor, and those with chronic diseases and disabilities. In other words, our nation’s most vulnerable populations are the ones most at risk — and the ones least able to do anything about it.
“If we embrace this opportunity, Alabama can leapfrog other states for jobs in the clean energy sector,” Propst said. “The Clean Power Plan will go a long way toward preventing the diseases and other economic burdens we now experience because of dirty air.”
Responsible energy companies have been looking for ways to meet the Clean Power Plan’s goals since before the release of this final rule. Don’t believe the spin. Alabama has ample solar energy potential and unlike coal and gas, the fuel is free and doesn’t pollute the air.
The Clean Power Plan will prevent harmful pollution, create jobs, lower electricity bills, and improve our health. Alabama, we can and we must do this.