The Case for Ohio's Own Clean Power Plan

In a matter of weeks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) is slated to issue final rules to limit dangerous carbon pollution from power plants in Ohio and across the country.

Ever since the Clean Power Plan was first proposed last summer, I've blogged extensively on Ohio's ability to seize this opportunity.

And as we approach the finish line on the long-awaited rules, it's critical that regulatory staff, lawmakers, and other decision-makers have the best information at their fingertips to separate fact from fiction. To that end, NRDC released an extensive resource book to help settle the debate on the need for strong limits on power plant carbon pollution.

Complementing those materials, below are Ohio-specific facts and data demonstrating that not only is addressing climate change necessary for economic stability and the health and wellbeing of Ohioans, but the Clean Power Plan is critical to making it happen. The data doesn't lie. We can cut harmful carbon emissions, at low cost, while maintaining the integrity of Ohio's electric grid.

Here's how.

We Don't Have to Choose Between a Healthy Economy and a Healthy Environment

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan have a default response for every government initiative that has been proposed to better protect the public and the environment: tell everyone the sky is falling.

But as noted by Pew Charitable Trusts, all they are really doing is crying wolf; they did it when air bags were first required, when CFCs in aerosol cans and air conditioners were banned, and when the auto industry was required to switch to catalytic converters. The list goes on and on.

None of the doomsday predictions came true, and addressing climate change will be no different.

  • Using clean energy to cut carbon means more jobs. Just a few years ago, Ohio was home to over 400 advanced energy companies employing over 25,000 Ohioans. Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) reported that, just prior to the passage of the SB 310 clean energy freeze, Ohio's clean tech economy had grown to support 89,000 jobs. Unfortunately, much of this hard-earned momentum was a casualty of the SB 310 freeze as well as HB 483, which threw a wrench in wind development by nearly tripling property setbacks for turbines.
  • Ohio businesses such as energy efficiency companies and solar and wind developers support cutting carbon. More than a dozen solar companies headquartered in Ohio signed onto a letter last year "welcoming" the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
  • Our economy continues to grow even as we cut carbon emissions from power plants, according to a report released by Bank of America, Calpine, Entergy, Exelon, Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), Ceres, and NRDC.
  • Billions of dollars are potentially on the table for Ohio if the state tackles carbon from power plants through a market-based program. A recent audit by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a collective of nine states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, found that over the last six years, the states collectively cut carbon emissions by 1/3 while generating nearly $3 billion in economic growth, creating over 14,000 new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in bill savings in the process.
  • The same report emphasized how critical complementary policies such as renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements are to driving savings and ensuring economic growth while addressing power plant pollution.
  • Under the Clean Power Plan, Ohio has the option to develop a simple, "trading-ready" market-based approach in which the state would establish a declining cap on carbon emissions, require power plants to hold one carbon allowance for every ton of carbon they emit, and then leave open the option of trading across its borders with like-minded states.

Reducing Power Plant Emissions is a Public Health Imperative

  • Ohio is one of the states where the most lives could be saved by limiting carbon pollution from coal plants. Strong limits on emissions, similar to those in the Clean Power Plan, could prevent 3,500 premature deaths, 1,000 hospitalizations, and hundreds of heart attacks each year by 2020, according to a 2014 study by scientists from Harvard, Syracuse, and Boston Universities on the health "co-benefits" of reducing carbon pollution.
  • Ohioans suffer the greatest risk of excessive allergies and exacerbated asthma due to carbon pollution-fueling climate change. Of the 35 most-affected cities nationally, seven are in Ohio: Dayton, Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, Cincinnati, Youngstown and Columbus. These cities are home to roughly five million Ohioans.
  • Community leaders and local health officials, such as the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, are calling on US EPA to set the strongest possible carbon pollution standards to "... improve the quality of our air, protect public health and help move our country toward cleaner energy technologies that won't make people sick."

We Can Meet the Goal at Low Cost

Study after study confirms Ohio is ready and able to meet the challenge of climate change while actually saving money for homeowners and businesses.

Here's the data:

  • Ohio can satisfy the Clean Power Plan targets at low cost if it collaborates with neighboring states and focuses on clean energy according to The Organization of PJM States (PJM)--the electricity grid operator whose very job it is to ensure that the lights stay on across 12 states, including in Ohio. The Bipartisan Policy Center affirms this conclusion.
  • The average Ohio household could see reduced electric bills if the state develops its own plan to cut emissions through greater energy efficiency and renewables efforts, according to recent modeling from NRDC. Research from the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen confirms these cost savings, amounting to approximately $144 per person annually in Ohio.
  • The Ohio Consumers' Counsel notes that using energy efficiency to meet the Clean Power Plan could significantly reduce energy costs. Because energy efficiency programs save money for Ohioans, the consumer advocate also recommends reinstating the standards.

We Can Limit Harmful Pollution - and Keep the Lights On

Opponents of the Clean Power Plan will continue to spin tall tales about how costs will skyrocket and Ohioans will be left in the dark when the final carbon pollution rules are released.

Don't be fooled. Grid operators across the country and in Ohio are already demonstrating how numerous planning, operational, and market tools can rise to the occasion to ensure that reliable power service is maintained while implementing the Clean Power Plan.

For example:

  • PJM is already adapting to changes underway in the electric industry--namely the retirement of more than 10% of its aging coal plant fleet--and doing so successfully while maintaining grid reliability. These plants are being replaced with new resources and there is a deep bench of new proposed projects ready to step in to meet future needs.
  • A PJM assessment from 2014 concludes that the Ohio grid could support heightened levels of renewables and see drastic reductions in pollution and costs--without impacting reliability. In addition, PJM successfully weathered the brutal 2014 Polar Vortex by using demand response, a voluntary reduction in energy usage designed to lower demand during peak times, and energy efficiency. These preemptive actions kept the power on during the most critical times and prevented power shortages for people across much of the Midwest and Northeast.

Ohioans Want the State to Take Climate Action

  • Nearly 50,000 Ohioans have weighed-in to support the Clean Power Plan, including influential elected officials, business owners and community leaders.
  • Ohioans want policymakers at both the federal and state levels to take actions to address climate change. An even larger majority say that corporations and industry (69%) and citizens themselves (65%) should be doing more to address climate change.
  • Eight in ten Ohioans support a state plan to reduce carbon pollution and increase the use of clean energy and energy efficiency.

Ohio can lead the Midwest--IF it Gets its Clean Energy Potential Back on Track

Ohio's recent decisions to freeze the state's clean energy requirements and impose tougher requirements on property setbacks for wind turbines is an unfortunate turn of events that threatens to upend years of progress in developing a thriving clean tech industry.

But getting back on track and fully harnessing our energy efficiency and renewable energy potential will facilitate Clean Power Plan compliance and reposition Ohio at the forefront of the clean energy economy, and possibly even the Midwest.

For years, we've been tip toeing our way across the shallow end of the of the clean power "pool."

Based on the evidence and analyses already out there we know Ohio is more than ready to jump in with both feet when the rule goes final this summer.