Louisiana should get on board with the Clean Power Plan.
The link between elevated levels of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and rising temperatures is well-established (IPCC, 2007). Forty percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, and one-third of greenhouse gases overall, come from electric power plants, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The country needs a plan to reduce carbon emissions from electric power generation. That plan is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan currently being proposed.
The state of Louisiana should support implementation of the Clean Power Plan for the following reasons:
1. According to the EPA, emissions of CO2 from combustion of fossil fuels for electric power generation in Louisiana amounted to 42.96 million metric tons in 2012. That places Louisiana in the top third of states for carbon emissions from the electric power sector.
2. EPA allows for flexibility in how states implement the Clean Power Plan but requires that states develop their implementation plans by 2017. States not developing their own implementation plans will receive a plan from EPA. Not producing a state plan is irresponsible. Louisiana can develop a plan more tailored to fit Louisiana than one developed by EPA.
3. Compliance with the Clean Power Plan can be met with only modest costs due to the current trajectory of the power sector away from coal and toward cheaper natural gas and renewable energy.
4. Money being sent out of state to buy coal could be invested in Louisiana on energy solutions, including high-efficiency natural gas and renewable energy. That means Louisiana jobs in design, construction, retrofitting and maintaining high-efficiency natural gas, wind and solar installations. Energy efficiency programs will conserve resources and save money for Louisiana families and businesses.
5. Coal from power plants is the major source of mercury emissions to the air in Louisiana. Mercury in the air settles in streams and contaminates fish. Consumption of mercury-contaminated fish can lead to cognitive impairment in newborns and senior citizens. There are 48 streams and lakes in Louisiana that have health advisories for mercury in fish.
6. Costs of inaction on climate change are great, with Americans already spending $300 per person per year on federal disaster programs that are responding to more frequent and more extreme weather events nationwide. A study by the global reinsurance firm Munich Re examined natural disaster losses between 1980 and 2011, finding that weather-related loss events in North America nearly quintupled during the period. The Gulf Coast is especially vulnerable to extreme weather events.
State government has a responsibility to protect our health and safety. It is time for Louisiana to get on board with the Clean Power Plan.