The news that the Clean Power Plan (CPP) is being repealed comes as no surprise. It is part of the continued efforts by the Trump Administration to dismantle policies that throw a monkey-wrench in a low carbon future. As regressive as these actions might seem, it appears to be catalyzing many to move forward without the federal government.
Not to say that this isn’t frustrating. The CPP was designed to reduce carbon emissions from power plants (primarily from coal and natural gas), the single largest source in the United States. The idea was to hold states accountable for reducing carbon pollution while also giving them the flexibility to choose their own clean energy path. Ultimately, its intent was to cut CO2 emissions from power plants 32% by 2030 from a 2005 baseline.
The repeal of the CPP ignores science, which shows we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions consistent with a trajectory that limits warming to below 2O C, as outlined in the Paris agreement. Washington State is already experiencing a wide range of climate impacts including reduced snow packs, increased wildfires and ocean acidification.
It also goes against the Supreme Court which has ruled on three separate occasions that the EPA has a responsibility, under the Clean Air Act and other federal laws, to protect American communities from harmful carbon pollution.
It also doesn’t make common or economic sense: It was incredibly tough to get agreement on a framework that created collaborative responsibility to bring down emissions – this repeal jeopardizes an already done solution. By focusing on a low-carbon future, the plan was set to produce tremendous climate and public health benefits. In 2030, the climate protection and health benefits were expected to save tune of $34 to $54 billion. The Obama administration said that, the CPP would prevent 3,600 premature deaths, 1,700 heart attacks, 90,000 asthma attacks, and 300,000 missed work and school days each year. So many businesses are interested in reducing their environmental footprint, want to see a shift to renewable energy and stood to benefit from CPP because their costs would go down. Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft in a joint statement said,” We believe that strong clean energy and climate policies, like the Clean Power Plan, can make renewable energy supplies more robust and address the serious threat of climate change while also supporting American competitiveness, innovation, and job growth.”
Luckily, many states are already on a trajectory to meet or exceed their greenhouse gas targets under the rule. Our state continues to invest in new clean energy technologies and has committed to the bipartisan United States Climate Alliance.
Last month the US Climate Alliance released a report demonstrating that its 14 member states are collectively on track to meet and possibly exceed their portion of the U.S.’ commitment under the Paris Agreement. There’s more: Alliance members together achieved a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, between 2005 and 2015 alone, and have attracted nearly $100 billion in renewable energy investments in their states, since 2011. Ultimately, Alliance states are driving the economic future – already they have 1.3 million clean energy jobs, accounting for 40 percent of U.S. GDP, and they outpace the rest of the country in economic growth.
Meanwhile many Washington businesses recognize that there really is only one viable future and so they are inventing and embracing it. Companies, like Microsoft which recently secured carbon-free power to supply 80 percent of Microsoft’s Puget Sound power demand, will continue to lead the way forward.
What’s needed now is the continued resolve for a low-carbon future along with increased homegrown policies that encourage investment in clean energy, energy efficiency and climate resilience.
Lisa McCrummen is a strategic communications consultant.