Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service (PA)
HARRISBURG, Pa. - While the Environmental Protection Agencies proposal to curb carbon pollution may be a difficult pill for coal supporters to swallow, one state leader is convinced the benefits outweigh the costs. About 40 percent of Pennsylvania's electricity comes from coal, and the Clean Power Plan calls for the state to reduce carbon emissions from coal power plants 32 percent by the year 2030.
State Treasurer Rob McCord admits there are costs and concerns to be addressed, but says there's much to gain by embracing the goals of the plan.
"We have families who depend on the income from working in the coal industry," he says. "But what we need to take a look at is that, in the last decade, we've generated hundreds of thousands of jobs now in green technology industries related to energy, as opposed to the 7,500 jobs in coal."
McCord says the plan would also reduce climate change, and help those who suffer from asthma and other lung conditions by improving air quality. In the last two years, the EPA has received more than eight million public comments supporting federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The rules are supposed to be finalized this summer, although GOP leaders in Congress say they'll try to prevent that.
The EPA has crafted the plan so states are allowed flexibility in how they meet their goals. Instead of waiting for federal regulators to decide how Pennsylvania will reduce carbon emissions, McCord says the State Legislature should adopt its own approach with wind and solar power, and other innovations.
"Net metering is a big opportunity for families; generating green technology is a big opportunity for businesses," he says. "Incentives for conservation, we get a $3 return for every dollar spent on any kind of conservation. All of those things could be put into a customized bill."
McCord believes the savings that result from moving to a clean energy economy can create new opportunities for those families and businesses that have depended on coal for their livelihood.
"Provide special incentives to transition away from a dependence on coal," says McCord. "We may want to invest in things like carbon sequestration, so that our coal reserves become more valuable as well as safer over time and we could have subsidies for the families that are losing jobs."
McCord says measures implemented to meet the EPA's goals could generate nearly $90 billion per year in savings for less than $9 billion per year in investment between now and 2030.