Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Conservationists: Clean Power Plan Will Help Protect Pennsylvania Natural Resources

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service 

PHOTO: Conservationists say nature is a winner under the first-ever federal rules limiting carbon emissions from power plants. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
PHOTO: Conservationists say nature is a winner under the first-ever federal rules limiting carbon emissions from power plants. Photo credit: Greg Stotelmyer.
PITTSBURGH – A plan for reducing carbon pollution in the U.S. has been finalized by the Obama administration. The EPA's Clean Power Plan, released Monday, sets a 32 percent goal for cutting emissions from power plants by 2030.

Ed Perry, Pennsylvania coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation's Climate Change Campaign, calls the plan a "flexible, science-based" rule. He says he's confident it will create "real progress" in protecting natural resources.

"Climate scientists say we need to reduce carbon pollution by 80 percent by the year 2050," he says. "So this is a big step in that direction."

Pennsylvania is the fourth-largest coal producer in the country, and according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, receives 36 percent of its electricity from coal. Monday's rollout of the Clean Energy Plan was met with a backlash of legal opposition, with utilities and political leaders in some states saying tougher rules will be an economic hardship.

Perry points to the wooly adelgid as a prime example of how a changing climate is harming some species. As winters have warmed, Perry says the insect has moved north, decimating hemlock trees in Pennsylvania.

"If we don't take action to reduce carbon pollution, we are going to see our state fish, the brook trout, the state bird, the rough grouse, and our state tree, the hemlock, gone from Pennsylvania by the year 2100," he says.

A coalition of environmental, clean energy, public health, labor and faith groups predicts the Clean Power Plan will provide up to $45 billion in climate and health-related benefits.

Jeaneen Zappa, executive director of Pittsburgh-based Conservation Consultants, one of the coalition organizations, says a new focus on cleaner power and energy efficiency will also lower electric bills.

"Energy efficiency is the simplest, and cheapest, first step to better financial health and grid health, and to reduce carbon footprint," she says.

Last year, renewable energy accounted for just four percent of Pennsylvania's net electricity generation.

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