A Clean Power Plan to get Behind
It’s been said there are two undeniable facts in life: taxes and death. Add a third fact now: our climate is changing in the U.S. and around the world and at accelerating rates.
Californians are experiencing the most extreme drought in the state’s history. It is threatening urban and rural communities, farmers, fishermen and sportsmen, and small and large businesses. Worldwide, we’re experiencing the hottest years on record and unprecedented natural disasters.
Human action has accelerated this climate change in part due to our ever-increasing carbon emissions. U.S. carbon emissions now total 5.4 billion tons per year, 40 percent of which come from power plants.
Pumping this carbon dioxide into the air has immediate and long term costs. In the last three years Congress has appropriated $136 billion for disaster relief—an annual $400 tax equivalent per household. And the costs of mitigating the impacts of climate change will continue to rise. A report from the Council on Economic Advisers found that failing to address climate change for another decade would increase total costs of mitigation by 40 percent. This is a risk we can no longer afford to ignore.
In June of this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the Clean Power Plan for states to cut carbon pollution from power plants. Under the plan, carbon emissions will be reduced by 30 percent by 2030 through a combination of renewable energy, fuel-switching to natural gas, and efficiency upgrades. Because each state’s energy needs vary, the plan leaves implementation of the carbon reductions up to the individual states.
I had the privilege to testify in support of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan at a public hearing on July 29th in Washington, D.C. The proposal represents a strong first step toward effectively addressing climate change, with major benefits for California and our country. The EPA estimates that the plan will bring health and climate benefits of more than $55 billion by 2030 without costing more than $8 billion. Due to efficiency improvements, electric bills are expected to drop by 8 percent under the plan by 2030. The plan will also reduce soot and smog by 25 percent, driving down health care spending related to asthma and other pollution-related illnesses.
Beyond the plan’s benefits on paper, I believe one of its greatest benefits will be sending a signal to investors and the rest of the world that America intends to lead the clean energy economy. This sector has the potential to create hundreds of thousands of American jobs that cannot be outsourced. For example, the solar energy industry had 20 percent job growth in 2013—ten times the national average. With the Clean Power Plan in place, employment numbers will continue to increase.
Detractors argue that the Clean Power Plan is government overreach and unconstitutional. In fact, the Supreme Court has upheld the EPA’s power to regulate carbon emissions multiple times in the last decade. There are also those who fear this plan will threaten American jobs and drastically raise electric prices. The EPA found that while there may be an initial, modest price increase, electric bills will reduced significantly after the plan is enacted. Since California’s cap-and-trade program went into place over a year ago, residential electricity prices have barely budged, increasing by less than one half of one percent. And California remains the eighth largest economy in the world.
Seventy percent of Americans support the Clean Power Plan and I’m proud to be one of them. We have the science, the knowhow, and the capacity to change course. What we need is a clear plan. I believe we can do it. And I believe it is a noble cause for our collective future.
All my best,
Anna G. Eshoo
Member of Congress