Plan under fire

Published 10:01 am Thursday, June 5, 2014

Emissions proposal called poor policy


Earlier this week President Barack Obama announced a new environmental plan to reduce carbon emissions 30 percent by the year 2030. And already it has been met with national and local criticism.

The reductions would be retroactively based on 2005 statistics, meaning the decrease would occur in a 25-year time frame. According to the president and the Environmental Protection Agency, the proposed plan would lead to health benefits worth billions of dollars for Americans.

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“The EPA projects that, in 2030, the significant reductions in the harmful carbon pollution and other air pollution would result in net climate and health benefits between $48 billion and $82 billion,” the president said in the report released Monday.

The announcement of the proposal has been met with quite a bit of controversy and resistance from members of both political parties, many of whom have questioned what effect, if any, the regulations would have on a worldwide problem.

Democratic Sen., Joe Manchin III, from coal-reliant West Virginia, felt President Obama’s plan would do little to address climate change.

“There is no doubt that seven billion people have had an impact on our world’s climate,” Manchin told the Associated Press. “However, the proposed EPA regulation does little to address this global problem with global solutions.”

Locally the president’s plan has also been met with criticism. State Rep. Ryan Smith, R-93, dismissed the emissions proposal as being poor policy.

“The new EPA standards are just going to kill coal even further,” Smith said. “The Tri-State obviously depends a lot on coal. Unfortunately, a lot of my constituents in the area are going to realize how painful it will be to have a brown out and higher electricity bills because both of those are coming if this becomes law. That’s not even touching on the loss of jobs in the coal industry and the types of effects it will have in that area. It is just the result of bad policy and not well thought out ideas.”

Executive Director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation Dr. Bill Dingus echoed Smith’s words, while also saying he feared it could undo a decade’s worth of work in Lawrence County.

“I’m extremely concerned about the emissions plan proposed by the president,” Dingus said. “Here in Lawrence County we have taken emissions very seriously. We have worked very hard to raise ourselves back up to an area of compliance with the current standards and regulations. Our fear is this will now knock us back into a state of non-compliance and undo the last decade of work we’ve done.”

In Lawrence County there are several different businesses that directly rely on the coal industry and could be affected by the proposed regulations.

“There are 11 industries that are somehow tied to coal. These proposed plans could really place a hindrance on their abilities to operate and do business,” Dingus said. “The sad part is, there isn’t really any emissions to speak of in the county. We don’t have smoke stacks, or things of that nature. Most of that kind of stuff is coming from across the river in West Virginia or Kentucky. So that isn’t really something that we have to deal with here but it would hinder those businesses and industries that we have here that are connected to coal. That’s my concern.”

There have been those who have spoken out in support of the president and his plan, however, calling it ambitious.

“This is the kind of leadership that’s highly needed,” Martin Kaiser, head of international climate politics at Greenpeace told the Associated Press. “It should have been twice as ambitious, but it demonstrates that the Obama administration wants to seriously tackle climate change.”

Al Gore, who won a 2007 Noble Peace Prize for advocating climate change, also praised the president. The former vice president to Bill Clinton called the plans the “most important step” toward combating the negative environmental effects of carbon emissions in American history.

The proposed plan does allow for some flexibility to the 30 percent goal. For example coal heavy states like Kentucky and West Virginia won’t have to meet that number to fall in compliance. Kentucky will be asked to reduce its carbon emissions by just 19 percent, while the Mountain State will need to see a 21 percent decrease.

The proposed plan isn’t expected to go before Congress until sometime next year.