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A Moral Obligation

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"A Moral Obligation"

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Obama Administration Set To Announce New Climate Protection Rule

On Monday, the Obama Administration will announce another step to reduce carbon pollution and address our climate crisis. New EPA standards will cut carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants – the single largest source of the country’s climate emissions. The rule, which stems from a 2007 Supreme Court decision saying that the EPA has the authority to limit climate pollution under the Clean Air Act, will protect public health from more air pollution, allergies, and tropical diseases. As the New York Times put it, this is “the strongest action ever taken by an American president to tackle climate change.” Needless to say, big polluters aren’t happy, and have already launched an aggressive misinformation campaign to block any action. It’s important for the public to have all the facts in this debate. Here are some of the most important:

The new standards are a breakthrough in protecting public health and slowing the effects of climate change. While many conservative politicians continue to deny that global warming is real and due to human activity, scientists are as certain that humans are causing climate change as they are that cigarettes are deadly. Communities across the US are already experiencing the effects of rising temperatures: massive droughts are driving up food prices and strengthening wildfires in the west; more intense hurricanes are pummeling the southeast; stronger rains are costing billions of dollars in damage in the northeast. Power generation is responsible for 40% of US carbon pollution. By significantly reducing pollution from coal-fired power plants, the EPA rule will help slow rising temperatures and the public health and economic havoc already evident.

States can employ a tested model that can spark home-grown clean energy solutions. The EPA rule will provide states with the flexibility to tailor carbon reduction strategies to what works best for them. This includes enabling states to create carbon pollution markets. It will also spur renewable and efficiency technological innovation and create 21st century jobs: the approach gives energy companies an incentive to invest in new clean energy technologies in order to reduce their long-term reliance on dirtier fossil fuels. Carbon pollution standards like this are already successful: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a collaboration of nine northeastern states, started in 2003. Between 2005 and 2012, power plant pollution in these states dropped 40 percent, and at the same time the states raised $1.6 billion in new revenue.

The companies spreading misinformation are desperate, dirty, and in denial. Industry opponents of the new rule are already trotting out scare tactics before the Administration has even released the rule. The reality is that they simply don’t want to reduce their pollution because it affects their profits. The average coal-fired power plant in the United States is 38 years old, but some are nearly sixty years old. Coal plants are the number one contributor to carbon pollution. Some of these companies are responsible for horrible coal ash spills and other contamination of drinking water in North Carolina, West Virginia, and elsewhere. There have even been reports of coal companies deliberately hiding health threats like black lung from watchdogs and workers. Coal executives know that any serious attempt we make to protect the health of our kids and slow climate change has to include them.

Setting carbon pollution standards for coal power plants won’t destroy our economy. The primary aim of these opponents is to make this into a false choice – either cut pollution or create jobs. The reality is just the opposite: reducing carbon pollution will help modernize our economy, lead to new clean energy jobs, and save families money on their utility bills via more energy efficiency. We’ve heard the utility and coal companies’ argument before – in 1970 when we passed the Clean Air Act, and in 1990 when George H. W. Bush acted to stop acid rain caused by coal plants. These opponents were wrong then, and they are wrong now.

BOTTOM LINE: We have a moral obligation to our children to protect their health now, and leave them an inhabitable planet that is not permanently damaged. The Obama Administration’s forthcoming proposed rule to apply carbon pollution limits to our nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants is an important step in the fight against climate change and underscores the Administration’s commitment to addressing the problem. And despite what climate deniers and big polluters may say, these carbon standards will spur innovation and create 21st century clean energy jobs.

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