WASHINGTON – Indiana would have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by a much greater amount than initially proposed, under the final version of a potentially historic rule released by the Obama administration Monday.
Although Indiana’s goal has been toughened, the Environmental Protection Agency said the final rate Indiana has to meet by 2030 is still one of the least stringent among states.
Still, Gov. Mike Pence has already vowed to fight the rule in court, as well as potentially refuse to comply, if — after reviewing the rule — he doesn’t find it sufficiently improved from the draft version.
“Far too much is at stake for jobs and the economy in Indiana for us to do anything less,” Pence said in a statement.
“Reducing pollution from power plants means cleaner air for asthmatics I care for and a cleaner bill of health,” said Dr. Steve Jay, an Indianapolis physician and professor emeritus of medicine and public health at the Indiana University School of Medicine.
Indiana already tried to stop the rule in a multistate suit dismissed in June by a federal appeals court. The court said the states had to wait until the plan was finalized before they could sue.
“EPA’s rule is an overreach of historic proportions, and this regulation of electrical power generation goes far beyond what Congress authorized the agency to do,” Zoeller said in a statement.
Environmental groups have said states will have a difficult time getting a court to suspend the rules during the litigation because states have to show they would suffer immediate “irreparable harm,” and the proposal has a long lead time before emissions have to be reduced.
Reductions are to begin in 2022, compared with the initial proposal of 2020, and must be fully met by 2030.
The Clean Power Plan is the cornerstone of the administration’s attempt to curb climate change by forcing reductions in carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, which officials hope will help persuade other countries to take similar steps.
Power plants that use fossil fuels are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, accounting for nearly one-third of the emissions.
Indiana, which relies on burning coal for electricity more than most states, is among the top emitters of carbon dioxide.
In 2013, the 99 million metric tons of carbon pollution generated by the state’s plants equaled the amount of pollution generated by 20 million cars in a year, according to the White House.
Under the initial version of the rule released last summer, Indiana would have had to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide generated per unit of electricity 24 percent from 2012 levels by 2030.
Under the final version, the emissions rate has to be reduced 38.5 percent.
EPA officials said the final version reflects a more consistent approach to setting emissions rates for plants that led to less variation among states.
Under the initial proposal, only eight states would have had to reduce emissions rates less than Indiana.
“It sets standards that are fair and consistent around the country and are based on what states and utilities are already doing to reduce carbon from power plants,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.
Janet McCabe, the former Indiana air official who heads the EPA office that wrote the new rule, said Indiana’s tougher reduction is achievable because of the opportunities for states to join regional carbon emissions trading programs. States that cut their emissions more deeply than required can sell credits to other states that aren’t meeting their reductions.
The federal compliance plan that will be imposed on a state that does not write its own plan is based on allowing states and power plants to trade emissions credits.
States also can reduce emissions by making plants burn fuel more efficiently, switching from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas or to renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, or by reducing energy demand through programs that make buildings and appliances more energy efficient.
States have about a year to file an initial plan but can ask for an extension of up to two years to refine it.
John Hamilton, who headed the Indiana Department of Environmental Management from 1997 through 1999, said it would be irresponsible for the state not to create its own compliance plan.
“Indiana has always done its part to write state clean air plans that make sense for Hoosier families and businesses,” he said.
Other Hoosier supporters of the proposal include the Hoosier Environmental Council, which argues that Indiana’s economy can benefit if the state turns its manufacturing prowess to making energy-saving equipment, solar panels and other components that will be needed as more electricity comes from renewable sources.
“Indiana should embrace, not resist, this plan, because it has much more to gain than most states,” said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council.
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- On August 4, 2015