President Barack Obama unveiled his plan this week to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by 30 percent by the year 2030. The move announced by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was intended to show the world that the United States would lead the way in thwarting climate change.
According to USA Today, the controversial 645-page plan, expected to trigger legal challenges, sets different reduction targets for each state and gives them flexibility in how to achieve them. Yet it aims for a 30 percent national reduction of heat-trapping CO² emissions, from 2005 levels, by 2030 — an amount that the EPA says is equal to annual emissions from powering more than half of U.S. homes.
The rule will not take effect for at least two more years. Obama has asked the EPA to finalize it in June 2015 and initially wanted each state to submit its plan by June 2016. The EPA proposal gives states until 2017 or, if they make joint efforts with other states, 2018.
Clean air is a noble cause. There are many people who suffer from breathing problems that are brought on from air pollution in this area. In a three-county area along the Ohio River, there are five active coal-fired generation plants of varying sizes on either side of the river. Those plants represent literally hundreds if not thousands of jobs in our community/region.
Long before Obama came forth with his plan, the power plants had been feeling the squeeze from environmentalists. Costly scrubbers and new technology had to be installed to reduce carbon emissions and pollutants. Some plants like Beckjord Station in New Richmond in Clermont County have become too antiquated to improve. Duke Energy Ohio anticipates it will retire all six, coal-fired units at Beckjord Station by Jan. 1, 2015.
The nearly 60-year-old power plant has become cost-prohibitive to operate. With these increased demands in reducing carbon emissions other older plants will follow suit. There are more than 600 coal-fired power plants in the United States today.
It’s almost laughable to read that groups like Environmental Entrepreneurs state that the new standards will mean for Ohio “More jobs, less carbon pollution.” Certainly less carbon, but more jobs?
Maybe more jobs in Columbus or in Cleveland, but southern Ohio stands to lose substantially economically if this is pushed forward too quickly. Businesses are not going to come to southern Ohio to build windmills and solar panels. There’s no way enough of those could be manufactured here to replace the number of jobs that would be lost if the coal-fired plants were shuttered in the next 10 years.
A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study on this issue states that hundreds of thousands of jobs in the U.S. would be lost if this plan is allowed to move forward.
In the recent election there were four Democrats running for the Second Congressional District seat. Each was surprised somewhat when we brought up the issue of coal-fired electric plants. Each one agreed that the time was not right, that a transition had to take place. Something had to be in place to help transition these workers or the results would be disastrous to the local economy.
Just like when steel left southern Ohio. Just like when tobacco left southern Ohio. Just like when manufacturing left southern Ohio. We are in trouble again and it is going to be a hard fall if our local politicians — U.S. Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, and Congressman Brad Wenstrup don’t stand up for us in Washington on this matter. Equally as important are the forthcoming steps being required of state government. State Representatives Doug Green and Dr. Terry Johnson as well as State Senator Joe Uecker need to step up and make sure this does not get out of hand too quickly.
Coal-fired generation plants are here because of the Ohio River and the relatively easy access it provides to West Virginia and Kentucky coal. It’s not windy here. It’s not extremely sunny here. Gas is not overly abundant here. Neither are good paying jobs.