By Ramona du Houx
During a “citizen hearing” today in Portland, local health experts, marine fisheries experts, clean energy leaders and conservation advocates, highlighted the public health and economic benefits of the EPA’s new carbon pollution standards for power plants, and urged Maine’s elected leaders, including Senators Collins and King to pledge support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. They also highlighted how the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has helped grow Maine's clean energy economy.
“The Administration’s carbon pollution standards establish the first ever national limits on industrial carbon pollution from power plants and take an essential step toward protecting public health from the harmful effects of climate change,” said Dr.Lani Graham, Maine Medical Association. “Ignoring the impacts of industrial carbon pollution puts us all, especially children, at risk from asthma attacks and other health impacts associated with air pollution.”
“The sooner we implement the elements of the EPA Power Plant proposal the lower the costs in terms of money, human health, and the environment,” said Casco Baykeeper Joe Payne. “As advocates for Casco Bay we know that lowering emissions from power plants will help protect the health of the bay, the people in the watershed, and the coastal economy.”
Maine and the Northeast states are well positioned to benefit from the EPA plan because of the previous adoption of carbon pollution limits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI has generated $257 million in energy savings for Maine homeowners, businesses and industry as revenues from the program are funneled into energy efficiency initiatives.
“If we do not cut carbon emissions now, particularly from power plants, the largest single emissions source, it becomes much more difficult and much more expensive, if not impossible, to protect us from the worst ravages of climate change,” said Tom Tietenberg, Professor of Economics, Emeritus, Coby College and former board member, Efficiency Maine Trust, set up by the Baldacci administration after they transitioned the state into RGGI.
“The EPA is glad to hear from the public about our proposed plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants under the Clean Power Plan”, said Curt Spalding, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s New England office who presented at the event. “The plan is a commonsense, flexible way to protect public health, spur innovation, and create jobs. On behalf of our kids and future generations, we have a moral obligation to act.”
The Clean Power Plan lets other states reduce emissions, in ways similar to Maine’s RGGI program, which has significantly reduced emissions while boosting the economy and helping businesses to lower their energy costs and become much more competitive.
“We view EPA's new rules as a milestone in our nation's struggle to wean itself off energy sources that pollute our air and change our climate,” said Zach Anchors, Chair, Voter Education Brigade. “Curbing carbon emissions is an essential step towards minimizing the impact of climate change and keeping Maine's air as clean as it should be. The citizen hearing being held by NRCM and the Brigade is a valuable opportunity for Mainers to learn how the EPA's new rules will impact our state and help to address the global environment challenge we currently face.”
Among the largest beneficiaries of RGGI-funded energy efficiency programs are Madison Paper, Bath Iron Works, Hannaford Brothers, and the University of Southern Maine. In addition, one third of RGGI funds are now being used for home weatherization programs to help several thousand homeowners each year.
The hearing comes just weeks after the EPA announced its Clean Power Plan, which will place historic limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Carbon pollution fuels climate change, triggers more asthma attacks and respiratory disease, worsens air quality, and contributes to more frequent, destructive, costly, and deadly extreme weather events. The Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks and 6,600 premature deaths annually by 2030.
The EPA is seeking public comment on the proposed action and has held formal regional hearings in Atlanta, Ga., Denver, Co., Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, Pa. Supporters vastly outnumbered opponents at each of these hearings.
“We need community leaders on the front lines of the fight against climate change,” said Lisa Pohlmann. “The President has presented a common sense plan and a major step forward in addressing these problems, and now is the time for our local leaders to support these important measures.”