EPA's Denver hearing on the Clean Power Plan: My comments

This morning I attended the sold-out EPA hearing in Denver on the proposed Clean Power Plan. From what I saw, most of the crowd and speakers were overwhelmingly in favor of strong and effective standards to cut carbon pollution.  Here are my comments:

Good morning.  My name is Noah Long. I am the legal director of the Western Energy Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  Thank you for taking my comments on this important issue. 

Power plants are responsible for emitting 40 percent of the industrial carbon pollution we are exposed to in the United States. While we limit how much arsenic, lead and mercury power plants are allowed to dump into the air, there currently is no limit set for how much carbon pollution should be allowed. That’s why the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan is so important. It sets the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants, which is an essential step to address the costly impacts of climate change. 

Abiding by this national standard will not only give states flexibility, but it can spur innovation all while protecting the health of our communities as we clean up our air. And it will begin to fulfill the obligation we have to future generations to be responsible stewards of this earthly inheritance of a livable planet.

As a westerner, I myself have already seen the effects of climate change. Since my grandparents moved to Colorado in the first half of the last century, temperatures have climbed, droughts and floods have become more common, snowpack and glaciers have diminished.  These changes are threatening the economies and way of life across the west: creating challenges for farms, ranches, wildlife, and outdoor enthusiasts. 

So I find myself wondering: will my son be able to enjoy fishing in the same rivers and streams, swimming the same alpine lakes and skiing through the same aspen glades I love so much? Because of climate change, I don’t know.

But western states are also demonstrating leadership and moving forward with clean energy to tackle climate change head-on.  Western states are moving away from dirty fossil fuel and embracing cleaner and more cost effective solutions like renewable energy and energy efficiency.

  • Legislators and regulators in nearly every western state, from New Mexico to Washington, have decided to shutter old, dirty coal plants in favor of less polluting resources. 
  • Many power plants across the west are already participating in a carbon market, because of California’s carbon standard.
  • Colorado has among the highest renewable energy standards in the country- and is reliably and affordably integrating higher and higher levels of renewable energy.
  • In Wyoming, plans are under way for the world’s largest wind energy facility;
  • California has the world’s largest solar thermal facility;
  • Solar power is being used to power Olympic facilities in Salt Lake, and Fort Carson, south of Colorado Springs.
  • With an average cost of 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour, western utilities and  regulators from Idaho to Arizona are used to seeing energy efficiency as the fastest, cheapest and cleanest resource;
  • Now those same regulators are seeing and approving utility purchases of wind and solar power, as the cheapest power generation alternative for customers.  

NRDC supports the building blocks put forward by the U.S. EPA, and agrees with providing the states the necessary flexibility to find their own ways to reduce emissions.  We urge to you to move forward with this plan, and to move to swiftly in proposing a road map for cutting carbon pollution in amounts comparable to surrounding states from power plants located on tribal lands.

We know states are already developing renewable energy and investing in energy efficiency at levels even higher than EPA assumes is possible – we heartily support going beyond the proposed requirements as we know the benefits will increase as we do so.  We know that utilities across the country are planning on shuttering old, inefficient coal plants.  These changes in the power sector are creating jobs, improving public health and taking the first steps towards safeguarding our communities from the consequences of a changing climate.

States are leading the way on clean energy development and a strong Clean Power Plan will empower them to take the next steps in that direction.