Clean Power Plan: A New, Better Chapter for Ohio

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The historic Clean Power Plan was finalized this week, our nation's first-ever limits on carbon pollution from the electric power sector--the single biggest source of climate change pollution in America. While there are limits on dangerous emissions like sulfur and mercury from power plants, there are none on harmful carbon emissions--until now.

In President Obama's announcement unveiling the rule, he took the time to mention some of our nation's most significant environmental accomplishments. Many, like requiring seatbelts in cars and removing lead from fuel, were met with opposition but thankfully prevailed. In his speech he mentioned the Cuyahoga River fire, illustrating just how dire the nation's environmental problems had become, but which is now a prime example of success when we work together.

The Clean Power Plan is the next new chapter in Ohio's (environmental) history.

It's a game-changer for Ohio--a state that uses nearly 70% coal-fired electricity. The Clean Power Plan is an incredible opportunity to step out from the past, modernize the electric grid and ensure we have an ongoing supply of clean, affordable, and reliable power needed to grow our economy and protect our health and the health of our children.

The final rule was released barely two days ago. But we already know that cutting emissions the right way--by focusing on clean energy--is going to the lower cost of electricity in Ohio, protect public health, and grow the economy.

You don't have to take our word for it. A wide array of organizations confirmed these benefits and expressed their enthusiasm for the newly-released rule this week, including:

  • American Lung Association
  • American Wind Energy Association
  • BlueGreen Alliance
  • GEM Energy from Northwest Ohio
  • Melink Corporation in Cincinnati
  • National and local environmental groups
  • Local health organizations, like University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital
  • Local elected officials, state representatives, and mayors, like Mayor of Columbus, Michael B. Coleman

This is in addition to nearly 50,000 Ohioans who weighed in to support regulating carbon emissions from existing power plants. This is also consistent with recent polling data showing that Ohioans support clean energy investment over dirty fossil fuels by a wide margin. Specifically, a poll by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication reveals that a majority of Ohioans want policies that do more--not less--to address climate change. According to this same poll, a majority also want to require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable resources.

Even utilities and other energy companies that do business in Ohio have released positive statements about the new rule.

Duke Energy, noting that it's already reduced carbon emissions from its power plant fleet by 22 percent since 2005, says it will "continue to work constructively with states to identify customer solutions that preserve the reliability and affordability that our communities expect. As we continue to modernize our system, energy diversity will be important..." Even FirstEnergy has indicated that the stronger emissions reductions in the new rule are likely "doable." Calpine, an independent power producer that has testified before Ohio's Energy Mandates Study Committee calls the Clean Power Plan a "flexible, market-based solution [that] will reward the companies that invest and have invested smartly in cleaner generation. We applaud the EPA for its efforts throughout this collaborative process and look forward to working with the agency, states and other stakeholders as the rule is ultimately implemented."

Ohio Should Act Quickly on Clean Energy

The fact is that Ohio is already on track to getting the Clean Power Plan done and people statewide support it. We just need to take advantage of the flexibility outlined in the rule and craft a customized plan that works best for the state.

Ohio is already ahead of the game because we have energy efficiency and renewables standards just waiting to be leveraged. While those have unfortunately been ground to a halt in the aftermath of last year's unfortunate "freeze" legislation (SB 310), we can get back on track simply by reinstating the standards.

And we should do it as soon as possible. The earlier Ohio presses the "restart" button on clean energy, the more credit we'll get and the more carbon emissions we'll be able to cut.

The longer we wait to thaw the freeze, the longer and harder it will be to regain these benefits.

Ohio businesses are ready, Ohioans are ready and the nation is ready. What are we waiting for?