The Clean Power Plan, an EPA rule which limits carbon emissions from power plants, is being challenged by 26 states across the country — even though more than 60 percent of Americans in those states support the rule, according to new data.
Only three states — North Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming — had less than 50 percent support for setting “strict CO2 limits on existing coal-fired power plants,” according to Yale University found in a poll released Tuesday. Some states that are challenging the rule, such as New Jersey (73 percent), Michigan (67 percent), and Wisconsin (66 percent), have overwhelming public support for the regulation. Even in Kentucky, where coal interests have led House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to rail against the Clean Power Plan, half of respondents favored reducing carbon from power plants.
In the 26 suing states, only 38 percent of the public actually opposes the plan, the researchers found.
“America’s history of political conflict over climate change and the legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan might suggest that the nation is divided over regulating carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants,” Anthony Leiserowitz of Yale University said in a statement to U.S News. “This study finds the opposite: A large majority of Americans in almost every state supports setting strict emission limits on coal-fired power plants.”
Fifteen other attorneys general have said that they will intervene in the case on behalf of the EPA.
The U.S. electricity sector is responsible for nearly a third of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the Clean Power Plan is seen as central to the Obama Administration’s efforts to address climate change. The rule allows states broad flexibility to develop plans that will ultimately curb carbon emissions from power plants by 32 percent below 2005 levels.
Reducing carbon emissions is imperative if we are to keep global warming to below 2°C, experts have concluded. The Clean Power Plan is one way the United States can show leadership on this critical issue, especially in the run up to climate negotiations in Paris at the end of the month.
Despite the political controversy around climate change — with a clear divide between Democratic and Republican elected officials — the divide in the general population is much smaller. Most Americans believe that climate change is happening and needs to be addressed.
In one odd result of the Yale poll, though, only 41 percent of respondents thought that scientists agreed that “global warming is happening.” In fact, reviews of scientific literature have shown there is overwhelming consensus among scientists that human-caused climate change is occurring.
The map above has been updated to reflect the full number of states advocating for the EPA rule.