Industry supports EPA action on Clean Air Act

James Bradbury, in a World Resources Institute repost.
On Capitol Hill last week, industry leaders and other experts explained why the upcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) standards on carbon dioxide emissions can benefit U.S. business and help drive innovation while keeping our air and water clean.
In the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, I moderated a panel featuring representatives from businesses and public interest organizations: Paul Allen, Senior Vice President for Corporate Affairs and Chief Environmental Officer at Constellation Energy, Dan Greenbaum, President of the Health Effects Institute, Franz Litz, Senior Fellow at WRI, and Dick Munson, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Recycled Energy Development. Representative Jay Inslee (WA-1) opened the discussion.

This group of “strange bedfellows” had one thing in common: a strong interest in ensuring Congress does not extend the current period of regulatory uncertainty by preventing the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate emissions. Panelists addressed several myths about the regulations often advanced by opponents of EPA action.

The first myth is that businesses and regulated industries are universally opposed to EPA standards that protect the public health and environment.

Paul Allen from the Baltimore-based utility Constellation Energy, a leading energy services company, stated, “Our view is that EPA is doing its best to follow the instructions, to play the game by the rules. We’re in an industry that is completely capable of responding to those rules. We expect that there will be reasonable flexibility in both the rules and enforcement guidelines.”

Allen pointed to two different periods in recent decades when the electric utility industry aptly demonstrated its ability to make rapid capital investment decisions by installing dozens of gigawatts of new power plant capacity over the course of just a few years.

“What’s important is that we get on with it,” Allen said.

Allen went on to discuss how existing state and federal regulations have led Constellation to make pollution control investments, resulting in jobs and economic benefits for his company. Unraveling the myth that EPA regulations will cost jobs, Allen said:

“Constellation Energy has made investments in our largest coal-fired power plants, creating 1600-job years for boilermakers and ironworkers and carpenters and master electricians and millwrights.”

My own research on the U.S. manufacturing sector has found that installing efficiency-related pollution control upgrades could result in very substantial cost savings that would provide both immediate and lasting benefits to surrounding communities, both in terms of job security and environmental health.

Panelists also listed certainty -“” clear signals from the federal government on which regulations are happening, and when – as a critical reason for wanting pending EPA regulations to not be delayed beyond currently established timelines.

Dick Munson from Recycled Energy Development, a company that helps manufacturers convert wasted energy into electricity and heat, explained, “the more certainty we can have, the more business and American industry can respond.”

Allen agreed: “We are staunch believers in markets and price signals that markets deliver to people who are making very large capital investments in the electric power sector.”

Despite industry claims that EPA standards could be a burden on American companies, panelists countered that standards would help them develop new products and more efficient technologies.

“Let’s have faith in American innovation, for goodness sake!” said Munson.

In addition to the direct economic benefits that can be gained from EPA standards, Dan Greenbaum and Representative Inslee pointed out the costs if EPA does not act.

Greenbaum, an internationally recognized expert on the subject, provided an overview of the negative health effects tied to inefficient power plants and greenhouse gases, including asthma, heart disease and cancer, each of which impose very significant hidden costs to society and a drag on the economy.

WRI’s Franz Litz also outlined how EPA is acting within the bounds of the law and moving at a reasonable pace.

“The Clean Air Act is an instruction manual that previous congresses gave EPA. They did not give the EPA a blank check or a blank piece of paper to write any regulations they wanted. The EPA is expected to act reasonably.”

As panelists spoke, it was clear that they agreed with WRI’s research finding that well-designed EPA regulations can be both a win for the economy and for the environment.

As Allen summed up: “Companies have known for many years that these pollutants will be regulated. It’s not a surprise, it’s not a mystery, and it’s not something that needs necessarily to compromise the reliability of the U.S. electric power system.”

James Bradbury, in a WRI repost.

7 Responses to Industry supports EPA action on Clean Air Act

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    What surfaces is that affords by people such as Rex Tillerson or Charles & David Koch, which fund actively the attacks on Science, hurts the economy.

    What these people produce could be taken straight from a 50’s style communist plot.
    They slow progress to increase efficiency, they try to keep their out of date infrastructure and technologies running, where this pure reckless-sociopath politic leads us we get reminders with the Deep Horizon or frequent natural gas explosions.

    Also with their orchestrated attack on science they make the US resource problem worse. This already made china the leader in many fields of science and particular clean technologies. With climate change disruption, Peak Oil, and environment pollution/health threats, they attack the system from within.

    With funding attacks on the EPA, conspiring to hide scientific assessments and manipulate elected leaders they pose a national security threat, when you look at the consequences we face!

    We need to put these people who attack our future – out of business, put them on trial for crimes against humanity.

  2. Frank Zaski says:

    The above is a start, but we need many more and bigger companies to stand up for the EPA and the environment.

    An EPA regulator said they are overwhelmed with anti GHG regulation comments, particularly the 5 to 10 page comments made on each rule proposal. She said the EPA need to receive more support in all forms – letters, emails, LTEs, and multi-page professional comments, from all groups.

    We must do more at all levels and quickly encourage supportive institutions and corporations to use their big clot. Some institutional examples:

    1. Corporations: “An analysis by the American Businesses for Clean Energy (ABCE) found that 6,000 companies support energy and climate legislation. The companies employ an estimated 3.5 million workers, represent more than $2.6 trillion in market capitalization, and totaled $3.5 trillion in estimated revenue in 2009.”
    Collectively, these companies are much bigger than big oil, coal and Koch brothers.

    2. Climate Counts.Org : This site lists many companies – including banks – and their efforts to fight GW. Our goal is to motivate deeper awareness among consumers — that the issue of climate change demands their attention, and that they have the power to support companies that take climate change seriously and avoid those that don’t. When consumers take action and raise their voices on issues that matter to them, businesses pay attention.
    Our activists can use this site to research companies and determine how best to approach them.

    3. Insurance Companies: ..more than a hundred of the world’s leading insurers have made statement…Climate change science underscores the imperative for societies to urgently mitigate greenhouse gas emissions… Raising awareness among the many stakeholders of the insurance industry – including governments and regulators, clients and business partners, business and industry, civil society and academia – about the impacts of climate change.

    4. Health Organizations: The American Medical Association made a policy statement on global climate change declaring that they: Support the findings of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which states that the Earth is undergoing adverse global climate change and that these changes will negatively affect public health.
    The American Public Health Association stated.. The long-term threat of global climate change to global health is extremely serious … that anthropogenic GHG emissions are primarily responsible for this threat….US policy makers should immediately take necessary steps to reduce US emissions of GHGs, including carbon dioxide, to avert dangerous climate change.
    Many other health organizations agree.

    5. Religious Groups: Evangelical Christians, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, Unitarians: All are committing time and effort to transforming their buildings and their congregants’ mindsets. Some were slow to jump on this bandwagon because they are wary of government studies and environmental activists. But with several recent studies emphasizing the urgent need to slow climate change, they say they are getting the message out to their followers through Web sites, e-mails, films and Sunday sermons.
    Members and clergy can activate their fellow membership from within.

    It would seem direct contact from the top brass of our environmental groups would have impact in getting them more active.

  3. robert says:

    I absolutely agree with the sentiments of the panel. However, these are not credible messengers. Constellation is pushing for new nuclear, and the bias of the other panelists and their organizations is clear. Consequently,the opinions of this discussion panel hardly merits the headline “Industry Supports…” What we need are the CEOs of GE and GM and other large corporations toeing the line.

  4. Ziyu says:

    Unfortunately for Greenbaum, in the US, if you are an internationally recognized anything, conservative automatically deem you as part of the evil socialist plot to take over the world. The only people they trust are the ones the international community scorns as the fringe.

  5. Joan Savage says:

    To Frank Zaski (#2)

    Your post inspired me to email my new Republican congresswoman, a climate change doubter, as well send one off to a senator to give constituent support for an already favorable position on support for the EPA and regulation of greenhouse gases.

    Thanks for the well-organized list, too.

  6. Frank Zaski says:

    Joan, thank you. You have motivated me to do more. Here is the rest of my list:

    6. Highly Influential People acknowledge we need to fight climate change: One example is Bill Gates. He ..”announced that his top priority is getting the world to zero climate emissions.. because he’s committed to improving life for the world’s vulnerable people that he now believes that climate change is the most important challenge on the planet.”

    7. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) acknowledges Climate Change “..staff at the center are taking a more active role …. The center will review and declassify images and other data that could be useful to scientists in their own climate-related research. It also will be aggressive in outreach to academics and think tanks working the issue.”

    8. Pentagon: “Global warming is now officially considered a threat to U.S. national security. “For the first time, Pentagon planners in 2010 will include climate change among the security threats identified in the Quadrennial Defense Review, the Congress-mandated report that updates Pentagon priorities every four years.”

    9. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “A strong consensus has developed in the expert community that, if allowed to continue unabated, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will have extensive, highly uncertain, but potentially serious and costly impacts on regional climates throughout the world. Those impacts are expected to include widespread changes in the physical environment, changes in biological systems (including agriculture), and changes in the viability of some economic sectors.”
    A non-partisan group yet.

    10. Countries: 75 countries accounting for over 80% of the world’s emissions have formally communicated actions that they are planning to take to reduce their global warming pollution.

    11. Authority Figures
    Here are some top military comments on global warming:

    “Climate change will provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror”
    – Admiral T. Joseph Lopez, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Allied Forces, Southern Europe

    “Climate change is occurring at a much faster pace than the scientists previously thought it could…. Military professionals are accustomed to making decisions during times of uncertainty… Even if you don’t have complete information, you still need to take action. Waiting for 100 percent certainty during a crisis can be disastrous… The US has the responsibility to lead [on global climate change]. If we don’t make changes, then others won’t.” – General Gordon Sullivan, Former U.S. Army Chief of Staff

  7. Scott says:

    Tillerson and the Kochs just don’t want government to “pick winners” unless it continues to pick them. Providing incentives to alternative energy efforts is “picking winners”, don’t you see? Removing carbon tax breaks is “picking winners”, right? The carbon boys don’t see anything that needs fixing; if they did, they would encourage their Congressional supporters to hop to it and incentivize oil and coal some more.

    Tell non-carbon corporations, insurance companies, health organizations, and religious groups to speak up! Drown out the carbon punks so we can get some alternatives into the market.