What is the EPAs Clean Power Plan?
On June 2, 2014 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first-ever rule to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide, the main air pollutant that is emitted from power plants that burn fossil-fuels and one of the main contributors to climate change that results in an increase in extreme weather events.
- The EPAs Clean Power Plan (http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/clean-power-plan-proposed-rule) requires that state’s figure out a way to meet new state-based emission targets for carbon dioxide.
- In order to meet these more stringent carbon dioxide limits, the EPA has given states the flexibility to decide what technology, policy and other mechanisms they will use to meet the goal.
- Some of the options states have to choose from include improving emission rates through technological upgrades from power plants, converting current coal-fired utilities to natural gas, enhancing state energy-level renewable energy requirements, increasing or developing renewable portfolio standards, enhancing alternative energy options, and or venturing into carbon pricing and/or carbon auctions like cap and trade.
Why is this rule important?
Across the country, there are low income, communities of color that suffer disproportionately from breathing in toxic air, as well as dealing with the ramifications of climate change. Environmental justice is the movement that seeks to bring the concerns of equality and justice to the table.
- This rule presents an opportunity for communities across the country to engage in a process that will improve air quality (i.e. by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants), but also help shape the best solutions to enhance energy efficiency and the green economy.
- This rule will require a multi-pronged approach that will involve the state environmental agencies, public utility commissions, utilities, energy entrepreneurs and various other stakeholders.
While ej communities are typically left out of these conversations, it is crucial that ej communities have a voice in these discussions to ensure that the health, community development and economic benefits that states and localities will realize downstream are rightfully dispersed into our communities as well.