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EPA Vs. Big Coal: Draw the Line on Carbon Emissions
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EPA Vs. Big Coal: Draw the Line on Carbon Emissions

Draw the lineWe’ve heard the buzz: July 2013 was the 341st consecutive month where temperatures have been over the 20th century global average. Since 1880, average global temperatures have rose about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit causing an average 8 inch sea level rise. Sea level rise has gone up from approximately 1 millimeter per year to almost 3 since 1900.

With impacts from climate change, Pennsylvania has been declared a disaster area 14 times since 2000. It’s estimated by 2100, average sea level rise is conservatively projected at 2 feet. 10 sq kilometers of Philadelphia is only 1 meter above sea level, placing it underwater in the next century – low lands around the airport succumbing before that. Meanwhile, the coal industry continues to fight a limit on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.

Draw the Line Event: September 21st

The 4th deadline for this limit is September 20. On September 21 at 3 PM, activists will be asking for a new rule that applies to existing power plants. Controlling carbon dioxide emissions is the only way to slow down climate change.

Register for the September 21 Draw the Line event to join Clean Air Council, Sierra Club, Mom’s Clean Air Force discuss the disastrous effects of carbon dioxide emission on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 78 feet above sea level, the Art Museum steps provide a great public venue to demonstrate the very real effects of climate change.

Face-off: EPA Vs. Coal

There is an odd logic to the energy industry’s opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s soon-to-be finalized limit on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. The historical significance of coal is emphasized and the coal industry lobby writes letters to the EPA to “ensure that standards are set at achievable levels based on commercially and economically viable technologies.”

Democrats in coal states are seen as the most convincing voices to dissuade the EPA from controlling coal pollution. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin (the only democrat to vote against the confirmation of Gina McCarthy to head the EPA) supports the coal industry saying, “if it’s unattainable, it’s totally unreasonable.”

There’s also the assumption that coal-fired power plants have a right to be static. The upcoming EPA rule should limit new power plants to 1,000 tons of CO2 per megawatt hour. If you want to build a new power plant, it needs to have new carbon capture technology and it shouldn’t take a “significant public investment” because the public has been unwillingly putting tax dollars into coal coffers since 1932.

Up to this point the federal government has been shouldering the cost of updating power generation as well as the cost of cleaning up the disaster areas caused by rising sea levels and extreme temperatures. In 2012, $4.1 billion in Pennsylvania tax dollars went to clean up extreme weather.

Proof of Climate Change

The American Meteorological Society just published a study focusing on the human influence to 2012 climate change disasters, finding that “natural forces” are not the cause for global warming. Using atmospheric models, 35% of the extreme heat between March-May 2012 can be attributed to industrial GHG emissions. Most frightening, the study found that the East Coast is twice as likely to suffer “Superstorm Sandy” caliber floods than 1950, with every year having storms with Sandy-like effects.  Here’s a full recap of the study.

2013 Hearings & Implications

Regardless, the Energy & Power Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee is holding a hearing Sept. 18 that will likely impugn President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and the plan’s centerpiece, a limit on carbon dioxide from power plants. Aside from EPA Director McCarthy and Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, House Republicans may be left to their own devices during this investigation since few other government agencies have responded to the letter or its desperate follow-up.

Considering the $100 billion spent on drought and storm relief in 2012 VS estimated cost of carbon at $33 a ton, the fossil fuel industry should be relieved about the cost of industrial greenhouse gas pollution.

Demand for coal and shale gas are both down so don’t believe that Americans need carbon dioxide pollution and that power plants have precedence over the planet.

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Russell Zerbo
Russell Zerbo is the federal advocacy coordinator at the Clean Air Council. He likes to participate in comment periods and write letters to the editor. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 2011 with a degree in government. View all posts by Russell Zerbo

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