Today the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted to undermine the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan – a reasonable and common-sense proposal to protect future generations from the worst impacts of global warming.
The Clean Power Plan, announced June 2, would establish the first federal limit on global warming pollution from power plants, which are the source of about half of Pennsylvania’s global warming emissions. Under the law, the EPA will set a standard for carbon pollution, and Pennsylvania must then develop a plan to meet the standards, using a range of tools including energy efficiency, wind and solar power, switching to lower-carbon fuels, or other measures.
“Not surprisingly, the biggest global warming polluters are trying to stop the Clean Power Plan dead in its tracks,” said David Masur, Director of PennEnvironment. “It is unfortunate that our legislators sided with big polluters today, instead of with our children and future generations.”
By a vote of 145 - 53, the House advanced HB 2354. If the bill wins final passage, it would increase the likelihood that Pennsylvania will fail to produce an adequate plan to clean up its power plants on time. Specifically, it gives the legislature the power to step in and disapprove any compliance plan developed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which would add delay and uncertainty to the process.
If Pennsylvania is unable to produce a plan that meets minimum federal standards, the U.S. EPA will step in and develop a federal plan for the state. This would reduce the ability of stakeholders in Pennsylvania to participate in the process and to craft a plan that best suits state needs.
Many of the nation’s largest electric suppliers, including utility companies here in Pennsylvania, have expressed support for the Clean Power Plan. For example, First Energy spokeswoman Stephanie Walton commented in Associated Press story in early June that, "FirstEnergy believes it is in a strong position to meet the requirements in the proposed rule" through investments in emissions controls and plant retirements.
Advancing solutions to global warming is urgent and important, as the National Climate Assessment warned earlier this year. Their report, the most comprehensive report on global warming ever issued in the United States, warns that heavy precipitation events will become increasingly common in Pennsylvania and across the Northeast. Heavier rainfall and higher seas will exacerbate the damage from weather-related events like Superstorm Sandy, which caused $60-$80 billion in damages; extreme rainfall and flooding that recently led to the evacuation of the governor’s mansion in Harrisburg and for hundreds of thousands of Scranton residents; and increasingly hot summer days.
Without urgent action, the impacts of global warming could become far worse. But if policymakers take action now to promote solutions to global warming, there is still time to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
“We need politicians who are working to implement solutions to the big problems like global warming facing our environment,” said Masur, “not constantly standing in the way of progress.”