The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan, the nation's first limits on the nearly two billion tons of climate-changing carbon pollution coming from power plants each year, and replacing it with a thinly-veiled bailout for the coal industry that would actually be worse than doing nothing. If finalized, this rule would increase dangerous air pollution from coal-fired power plants, harming public health and stymieing efforts at the state and local levels to move toward clean energy and combat climate change.
I joined a deep bench of colleagues on October 1 in Chicago to testify against this proposal, at the only public hearing EPA has scheduled in the entire country. Scores of scientists, consumer and environmental advocates, public health experts, elected officials (including US Senator Tammy Duckworth, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee in person!), and concerned citizens demanded that US EPA do better and strengthen our climate and health protections—not weaken them.
Good morning. My name is Samantha Williams, and I direct Midwest climate and clean energy policy for the Natural Resources Defense Council, in our office here in Chicago.
I’m here today to oppose this Administration’s proposal to replace the landmark Clean Power Plan, which set our nation’s first-ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.
This new proposal is bad policy.
EPA has the duty—pursuant to the Clean Air Act—to stem the carbon pollution that’s driving a changing climate.
But rather than the leadership our country needs to tackle climate change, the replacement plan could actually make matters worse by propping up coal plants– increasing air pollution, and exacerbating health problems.
That’s not leadership—that’s downright reckless.
When the Clean Power Plan was released in 2015, it was an opportunity for states to leverage federal policy to support and accelerate the growing shift from fossil fuels to clean energy. In the years since, that shift has only picked up speed.
Unfortunately, EPA’s proposal today squanders the opportunity for federal/state collaboration.
Under this new plan, several Gigawatts of coal capacity in the Midwest (in particular)—some of the oldest and dirtiest plants in our region—could get a lifeline, potentially squeezing out state efforts to transition to cleaner options.
There is one key reason for this unfortunate outcome:
The replacement plan falsely assumes there can only be one way to regulate the power sector—by focusing on “heat-rate improvements” at the plants themselves. But this ignores the interconnected nature of the power grid, and all the options—like renewables and energy efficiency—that are far more impactful at cutting emissions, and that states are already doing with great success.
Unfortunately, this narrow focus within the “fenceline” of plants could backfire—a fact EPA acknowledges. Emissions could go up. While the proposal encourages plants to be more efficient in how they burn fossil fuels, those more efficient plants—in turn—are typically called upon to run more hours. This means more harmful emissions, not less.
To make matters worse, the replacement includes a loophole that would let plant owners make retrofits and then avoid the New Source Review process, further jeopardizing air quality and public health.
I’d like to now turn for a moment to the Midwest.
This region is one of the most coal-reliant in the country. But even so, emissions from the power sector here (and nationally) have been in freefall for years. The industry is transforming, shifting away from the high-pollution, expensive fossil-based generation of last century, toward increasingly cheap and abundant wind, solar and efficiency.
It’s also been a boon to our economy. Environmental Entrepreneurs confirmed last month that the clean energy sector is a major employer in this region, with nearly 715,000 Midwesterners employed in renewable energy and energy efficiency jobs.
In closing, let’s put an even finer point on the tremendous emissions progress we’ve seen in recent years. The original Clean Power Plan called for a 32% reduction in carbon emissions from the power sector by 2030, based on 2005 levels. If you look at where we’re at right now, the U.S. power sector is 13 years ahead of that deadline.
Unfortunately, the replacement plan would set this progress back, hampering our efforts here in the Midwest, across the country—and internationally—to solve climate change.
If anything, EPA should be making the Clean Power Plan’s emissions protections stronger, not weaker.
This proposal before us today is a missed opportunity, and a cynical one at that.
Thank you for your time.