What Is The Clean Power Plan?
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) is a policy made by the Obama administration that took aim at reducing carbon emissions from coal-burning power plants. It furthermore encouraged the use of renewable energy. The plan set out to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 32 percent by 2030. The plan required that each state reduce their carbon emissions by any method that state saw fit. If the state didn’t propose a plan, then the EPA would step in to implement a plan to reduce emissions. States would have had to submit a plan by 2016-2018, begin implementing the plan by 2022, and continue reducing their emissions through 2030.
This was the most ambitious climate change policy implemented by the Obama administration, and the policies life is at risk. Since coming into office President Trump has revealed that he plans to review the CPP. After pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Trump and the EPA administrator Scott Pruitt plan to slash the CPP altogether.
The Reasoning for Repeal
The Trump administration has made its priorities clear: The economy comes first, and environmental regulations can restrict economic progress. Pruitt claimed that the CPP gives the EPA authority way beyond what it should have, and would also cost Americans jobs. Now, after backing out of the Paris Agreement, and planning to repeal the CPP, environmental concerns seem to be the least of the Trump administrations worries.
The Impacts of the Repeal
Environmental Health Concerns
The combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity accounts for over one-third of the United States’ overall greenhouse gas emissions. A greenhouse gas is a gas like carbon dioxide (CO2) that absorbs and emits radiation from the earth’s atmosphere. This warms the atmosphere in a process called the greenhouse effect, which is the main contributor to global warming. Repealing the CPP gives coal and natural gas power plants more freedom because there aren’t any incentives or regulations to cut their emissions. This means that the people emitting the most, are allowed to emit more, without penalty. This only strengthens the negative effects we have on global warming.
Human Health Concerns
According to the EPA, a higher percentage of low-income communities live near power plants where greenhouse gas emissions are high. By breathing the toxic air, these populations have a higher chance of contracting toxic airborne diseases. These low-income communities don’t have the resources to sufficiently treat any diseases they come down with, which will result in a higher percentage of deaths from people breathing toxic air and coming down with a sickness. According to the EPA, the CPP being implemented could save lives. It found that the policy could prevent around 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths, and up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children. As we allow power plants to emit more, we open up many more possibilities for human health to be impacted in a negative manner. With more emissions, air quality significantly worsens over time.
People who oppose the CPP say that it would cause the loss of many jobs in the fossil fuel industry. While this is true, you also lose many jobs (maybe even more) if the CPP is repealed. The CPP encouraged the use of renewable energy, and the renewable energy industry is currently booming. Renewable jobs outnumber oil and gas extraction jobs, which is a positive sign for the renewable industry.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), renewable energy will represent the largest single source of electricity growth by 2020. By backing out of the CPP, the renewable energy industry will lose thousands, and maybe millions of jobs. When the CPP repeal is final, clean energy takes a back seat to fossil fuels, resulting in the loss of jobs in this industry. While finding that the CPP would prevent 6,600 premature deaths and up to 150,000 attacks, the EPA also found that these numbers would translate to preventing around 300,000 missed work or school days. By preventing this, there would be an additional $14-$34 billion in public health benefits.
Nearly 10 million people live in affordable housing. These people would benefit greatly from the CPP, as renewable energy programs would cut electricity use up to 32%. Affordable housing has inefficient home appliances and heating, and its residents typically spend 7.2% of their income on utility bills, which translates to $1,700 out of a median household income of $25,000. This is triple the 2.3% spent on electricity, heating and cooling bills by higher-income households.
These low-income individuals benefit greatly from the lower utility bills if their buildings were more energy efficient. In states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Missouri, cumulative savings from more efficient energy practices can reach up to $1 billion by 2030. By repealing the CPP, states lose the opportunity for massive savings, and people who reside in low-income housing continue to pay bills on electricity, heating, and cooling that are triple that of higher-income households.
The withdrawal from the CPP causes a lot of implications moving forward. For one, the withdrawal has already seen tremendous amount of kickback from environmental groups and politicians. The National Resource Defense Council has vowed to take the EPA to court, and many other prominent environmental groups plan to fight back as well. If the repeal does become final, the negative impacts detailed above in this post will begin to take place.
But for now, we wait for the legal battles to take place. As environmental health and climate change are of little importance for our federal government, we must make sure that it is of immense importance for individuals, and communities. The only way we combat the destructive decisions of our government towards the environment is to make sure we live sustainably and attempt to reduce our ecological footprint because our world and its inhabitants depend on it.
Renewable jobs and potential monetary benefits hang are in grave danger with the slashing of the CPP. The economy would lose billions in potential additional funds with the CPP. The Clean Power Plan being slashed leaves the economy and the environment in worse shape than before. Therefore, the CPP needs to be implemented in our nation’s agenda moving forward.