By Joe Martens
Unfortunately, just as 195 countries and 150 world leaders were agreeing at the Paris summit to aggressively combat global warming, Congress voted to gut the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a recently adopted rule that would require states to collectively reduce greenhouse gases 32 percent from existing power plants by 2030.
Sadly, New York’s Republican congressional delegation, with the exception of Rep. Richard Hanna, joined with a majority of House Republicans and voted for the resolution. Although a yea vote may be understandable coming from a coal state like West Virginia or an oil state like Texas, there is simply no excuse for a New York representative to vote for dismantling the CPP.
The Environmental Protection Agency initiated the CPP after it became abundantly clear that Congress was not going to address the world’s biggest environmental problem.
The regulation was proposed after more than a year of discussions with stakeholders of every stripe: utilities, state regulators, environmental organizations, business leaders and others. It was the longest and most comprehensive public engagement process in the EPA’s history. It conducted hundreds of listening sessions, public meetings and webinars, and spoke individually with state regulators from around the country.
The final rule, which was significantly modified in response to hundreds of thousands of pages of comments, was adopted on Aug. 3, 2015.
The CPP sets individual greenhouse gas reduction targets from the power sector for every state in the nation. Every state has a unique energy mix and one size did not fit all. It also provides states with enormous flexibility in how they can achieve those targets and provides ample time for them to submit implementation plans. If states choose not to submit plans or submit deficient ones, the EPA will prepare a plan for them.
The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which includes New York and eight other Northeast states, will make complying with the CPP painless for this region. The RGGI has been in place since 2009 and it has been an overwhelming success. To date, it has reduced emissions by more than 40 percent and provided $2.9 billion in energy bill savings for 3.7 million households and 17,800 businesses across the nine-state region.
In the aftermath of the Paris accord, it is imperative that the United States continue to show leadership in the fight against climate change. The CPP will accelerate the nation’s transition to renewables and clean power and, for New Yorkers, it is the best way to combat dirty air from upwind states.
Joe Martens, former commissioner of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, is a senior fellow at the Open Space Institute, a New York City-based land conservation organization.