Dispatch from our own Susan who was in attendance:
Here are some take-away messages from the EPA Roundtable on June 13 held at the Boston Public Library.
The U.S. EPA has proposed a rule under the authority of the Clean Air Act, which would limit the amount of carbon emitted from new electrical generation plants. Fact sheet attached. The deadlilne for comment of June 25 is fast approaching. To submit a comment, go to: http://epa.gov/carbonpollutionstandard/actions.html and look for the link.
Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. This standard would set the first national limits on the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that can be emitted from future power plants — a critical step forward in reducing the impacts of global warming, protecting public health and transitioning to a clean energy economy.
In addition to Region 1 Administrator Curt Spalding, Vince Maraventano from Interfaith Power and Light, Dr. Rachel Cleetus from the Union of Concerned Scientists, and Dr. Ari Bernstein of Harvard all spoke in support of the rule, while recognizing that the rule will not reduce current carbon emissions. Vince highlighted the belief by all major religious groups that our nation has a moral obligation to reduce our emissions of carbon that cause climate change. The proposed rule should be promulgated and implemented by EPA without delay, in light of the global emergency regarding climate change that is already wrecking devastation on impoverished communities vulnerable to flooding and drought from changed weather patterns. EPA’s rules will not on their own shut down carbon-emitting electrical plants. We citizens can do our part by lowering our demand for electricity through energy efficiency measures and by purchasing energy supplied from renewable sources. Buying a more efficient furnace is not as important as turning down the thermostat.
Administrator Spalding stated that the rule would not cause unreasonable costs on either the private or public sector. A representative from the organization CERES commented that when the full cost of fossil fuels is factored in, electrical energy produced by renewables is cost-competitive, and the price continues to drop. The economist from the Union of Concerned Scientists stated that old plants are not economically viable anymore. She raised concerns that natural gas is contributing to climate change, but the current low price is stimulating more production. From the lively Q&A session with attendees, I learned that the carbon emission limits on new coal-fired plants as proposed for Phase 1 will not address the multitude of existing plants, some of which are located here in New England. The yet-to-be-developed standards for Phase 2 that will apply to existing plants could be far in the future. Also, the rule falls short in not addressing climate impacts and pollution of water resources caused by the extraction of natural gas by fracking and pipeline transport (methane leaks).