Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pennsylvania Holds Clean Power Plan "Listening Session"

Andrea Sears, Public News Service 

A Pennsylvania state plan to reduce carbon pollution is due in Sept. 2016. Credit: Emilian Robert Vicol/Pixabay.
A Pennsylvania state plan to reduce carbon pollution is due in Sept. 2016. Credit: Emilian Robert Vicol/Pixabay.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The first of 14 "listening sessions" on implementing the federal Clean Power Plan was held in Harrisburg on Tuesday evening.

Environmentalists, concerned citizens and representatives of the coal, gas and nuclear industries lined up to express their hopes and concerns about how the state will achieve required reductions in carbon pollution from power plants by 2030.

Tom Schuster, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club of Pennsylvania, says whatever the final plan looks like, it must meet some basic requirements to be effective.

"We want to make sure that the carbon-pollution reductions that are achieved are real and meaningful," he says. "That they are achieved through an emphasis on renewable energy and efficiency."

States have until next September to submit a plan to the EPA or request an extension. By beginning the process now, the Keystone State has an early start toward meeting that goal.

Pennsylvania is one of the nation's largest exporters of electricity, and critics of the Clean Power Plan say mandated cuts to carbon emissions could hurt the state's economy. But Schuster believes investments in energy efficiency are going to be the most cost-effective way to meet pollution-reduction goals and continue to generate surplus power.

"It will lower our own demand so in the event that we do generate less electricity from coal and gas, we'll still be able to maintain our status as an exporter since we're consuming less," he says.

To ensure the Clean Energy Plan doesn't have a negative impact on those already disproportionately affected by pollution and poverty, 10 of the 14 listening sessions will be held in or near low-income and minority communities.

With careful planning and implementation, Schuster is confident achieving the goals of the Clean Power Plan will offer the most benefit to the most people.

"It's going to be less expensive for ratepayers," he says. "It's going be healthier for all Pennsylvanians, and it is actually going to create more jobs than the current system."

The next listening session will take place Sept. 21 at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

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