Last week, the members and leaders of eighteen Latino organizations sent a clear message to President Obama, reiterating their strong support for addressing climate change by cutting pollution from power plants.
Emphasizing their hope to provide a healthy future for generations to come, the organizations stated, “Our members and supporters share your concerns about climate change and are eager to see your administration act now.”
The organizations’ letter to the President highlighted the dangers faced by a majority of the Hispanic community due to their work in the agriculture and construction industries, as well as their exposure to high levels of smog. In fact, 48.4% of Hispanics currently live in areas within the U.S. where ozone exceeds the threshold value set by the government.
Taking steps to limit and control carbon pollution from new and existing power plants is a key priority for the Latino organizations. A large portion of the Hispanic community faces adverse health effects and exposure to extreme weather events due to climate change implications related to emissions.
Power plants are currently responsible for 40% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions and have a substantial contribution to atmospheric greenhouse gases. These vast emissions profiles make power plants significant contributors to climate change, but because power plants are often the largest direct sources of air pollutants, regulating them can lead to the most immediate emissions decreases.
The President can respond to the Latino community’s request by continuing to push the country towards his goal of a 17% reduction of CO2 levels by 2020. Thus far, the U.S. has cut carbon emissions to 9% below 2005 levels through extensive reductions in motor vehicle carbon emissions and increases in renewable energy generation.
During this year’s State of the Union, President Obama warned that he would not hesitate to use his executive power to cut carbon emissions if Congress does not begin actively working to address climate change through a market-based plan.
While Congress has failed to act, the most significant action the President can take to tackle climate change is to set carbon pollution reduction standards for power plants. The EPA proposed a carbon pollution standard for new power plants in March 2012. There was overwhelming public support for it: Americans submitted 3.2 million comments in favor of limiting carbon pollution for both new and existing power plants — a record number of comments to the agency. The EPA was supposed to finalize the standard for new power plants by mid-April, though it missed that deadline. Finalizing the standards would be a major step toward the President’s goal of addressing the biggest environmental challenge of our time.
In closed-door fundraisers this week, the President assured environmentalists and foes of the Keystone XL pipeline project that new climate change proposals will be unveiled in July. The package is rumored to focus on cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but explicit details have not yet been released.
Patrick Maloney is an intern with the Energy and Environment team at the Center for American Progress.