|Coal Communications Kit - EPA Regulations of Airborne Emissions|
The Clean Power Plan (CPP) has been promoted by government officials as being a “Landmark action to protect public health, reduce energy bills for households and businesses, create American jobs, and bring clean power to communities across the country (Office of the Press Secretary of the White House, 2015).” But, when the CPP is analyzed on a closer level we begin to ask ourselves… are these results plausible? Before delving into this, a list of main points summarizing the CPP has been displayed below:
From a public health stand point, air pollutants under the CPP are regulated under three categories.
CO2 is not a criteria pollutant regulated under section 108, or a HAP under section 112. EPA classes CO2 under S.111 as a pollutant that may be harmful to public health or welfare (Environmental Protection Agency, 2015).
The focus for reducing carbon dioxide emissions is that burning coal and natural gas for energy emits CO2, which is thought to lead to global climate change. CO2 emissions are measured in gigatons (GT) and occur in nature as follows: plants 120 GT, oceans 90 GT, and human – from fossil fuel use – 9 GT. After it is emitted, CO2 is re-absorbed by oceans, forests, and other "carbon sinks" which naturally absorb excess CO2 from the atmosphere. “About 50 percent of the CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities has already been re-absorbed by the earth’s carbon sinks” (ProCon, 2015). Therefore, without clear scientific proof from the EPA that CO2 is actually known to harm people or the environment, a rule has been issued restricting it.
EPA claims that the Clean Power Plan will reduce energy bills for households and businesses, and create American jobs. As can be seen in the chart below, which shows a relative reference of where states fall in terms of progress meeting the CPP restrictions, some states will need to spend vastly more than others to meet the emission goals.
States that rely heavily on coal, in regions such as Wyoming, the Southeast, and the Midwest, are required to make the most stringent cuts. These states rely on coal to power their infrastructure. If the utilities in these states need to replace their current generation with new sources, the capital costs of doing so will flow directly to the ratepayer. In addition, if states wanted to retrofit older coal or natural gas boilers to be compliant with the rule, the CPP language makes it near impossible to do so.
The CPP restricts CO2 emissions from natural gas and coal fired facilities as follows:
These restrictions show that existing coal and natural gas plants must output less CO2 than the newest technology available. CCS would be an option if it were proven on a commercial scale. However it has not been, and if it does get there it will be extremely costly for the utilities, and the ratepayers to construct (Allison, 2014).
In terms of American jobs, the CPP will have a significant negative impact on manufacturing and mining states. Workforces in states such as Alabama, Georgia, and Wisconsin are projected to see approximately a 4 to 6 percent decrease of total manufacturing jobs by year 2023 (Dayaratna, 2015). Across the entire United States, it is projected that 500,000 jobs will be lost in manufacturing due to the CPP (Dayaratna, 2015). This includes the elimination of more than 45 percent of coal-mining jobs, and a total income loss per person of $7,000 (Dayaratna, 2015). Economists predict that the new CPP regulations will create 273,000 jobs overall (IEC, 2015). Therefore, overall the CPP ends up being a bad deal for American workers as these projections indicate a net job loss of 227,000.
In terms of providing clean power, yes the CPP supports wind and solar projects, which may provide “clean power” while generating. However this does not take into account the carbon created when mining the rare earth metals for their production, or refining the steel used in their construction, or the spinning reserve power–typically fossil fuels–that is required to firm, or back up, renewable energy when the wind does not blow and the sun does not shine. Therefore, wind and solar cannot claim to be carbon free sources either.
The CPP may reduce CO2 emissions, but otherwise it appears benefits of the CPP listed by government officials are, at best, speculative. It is not known if the CPP will have any effect on public health. As the CPP will end up costing many families more on their utility bills, and is projected to result in net job losses around the country, overall impacts on health and well-being are likely to be profoundly negative.
EPA claims that the Clean Power Plan will reduce energy bills for households and businesses, and create American jobs. But, if you live in major coal powered state this will not be true, as costs for these new generating sources eventually are passed on to rate payers. Job growth? Try job loss. About 500,000 manufacturing jobs by the end of 2030 are expected to be eliminated due to the Clean Power Plan (Dayaratna, 2015).