Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced on August 29 that she will be joining a growing list of states suing the EPA over President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. The lawsuit was launched two weeks ago by 15 states, but that number is expected to go over twenty. In the filing, states claim that the requirements are not only too stringent to meet, but would damage the energy sector economies, raise the cost of electricity for virtually all Americans, and is so much of a federal overreach as to be unlawful.
The Clean Power Act is aimed at reducing greenhouse gases and other pollutants, such as mercury, from getting into the environment and resources, such as water. However, the cuts required under the plan — as much as 32 percent by 2030 — could cripple states that are reliant on energy jobs. West Virginia and Kentucky led the initial charge as they are states with heavy reliance on coal mining in their economies. Additionally, the plan seems to penalize conservative states at a much higher rate than liberal ones, leading to perceptions of unfairness.
The flip side is that by having the United States lead the charge on cutting pollution it could have a huge effect on slowing climate change. Of course, there are still millions of Americans who think science is a made up thing and don’t believe in climate change, including several prominent politicians.
Climate change is a real thing that is happening, no matter what your crazy cousin posts on Facebook about it being a hoax just like the moon landing and Pluto flyby. The reductions in mercury and sulfur dioxide going into both the atmosphere and water supplies could also be extremely beneficial.
However, the nation’s power grid is still heavily reliant on coal, as are most other industries. If the plan were to be fully implemented, some estimates put the number of jobs lost at over 125,000, and the total cost at some $2.5 trillion. Other estimates disagree, saying that it will actually create jobs in the alternate energy sectors, such as solar. Given solar power’s current technology levels and the constant need to be propped up using government subsidies, this seems pollyannish at best, though solar energy could become viable within the timeframe of this plan.
Once again the United States finds itself in a situation where the economy and the environment are at odds with one another. Throwing the fact that the rules do likely overstep the authority of the federal government in, and that financial needs generally win out over environmental issues, plus prominent politicians such actually telling their states to ignore the rules, this plan does seem likely to fail.
Of course, once it does it will likely be replaced with a more tempered plan, hopefully one that can balance the short term needs of the economy with the long term requirements of the environment. After all, a smoothly running economy won’t do much good if climate change continues unchecked.