How are environmental groups and unions responding to the EPA regulations?

June 2, 2014

Story updated 10 a.m., June 3.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new regulations today that are designed to curb carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years. Environmental groups have been quick to respond, and a few unions also have chimed in about what they think the announcement means for them. Here's a quick guide to what different groups have said -- many of them making what will become familiar talking points as the debate over the proposal continues. We'll try to update the list as more people weigh in.


Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Environmental Groups

Tom Steyer, president of NextGen Climate

For far too long, coal-fired power plants have had free rein to dump carbon pollution into our atmosphere. The administration’s plan to end this carbon pollution loophole will establish a level playing field for advanced energy solutions that are cleaner, affordable and more secure. Now, more than ever, the United States must be a global leader in addressing climate change. As the centerpiece of the President’s Climate Action Plan, today’s carbon pollution standards proposal goes a very long way toward establishing that leadership and the President’s legacy.

350.org founder Bill McKibben

This is good–these rules will help advance the obvious tasks of moving America off coal. It’s one of the many things that simply have to happen if we have a chance of catching up with the physics of climate change.

Bold Nebraska director Jane Kleeb

We stand with President Obama as he does his part to protect the Heartland’s water and the health of our families. Pres. Obama’s brave policy on carbon pollution should set the stage for a Keystone XL denial.

Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council

The EPA's proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants for the first time ever is a giant leap forward in protecting the health of all Americans and future generations. It sets fair targets for each state and empowers the states with the flexibility to craft the best local solutions, using an array of compliance tools. And if states embrace the huge energy efficiency opportunities, consumers will save on their electric bills and see hundreds of thousands of jobs created across the country.

Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters 

This is the biggest step we've ever taken for the biggest challenge we've ever faced. It helps meet our moral obligation to future generations to act on climate change at a time when we’re seeing impacts on our health and our communities nationwide. This is a plan that can be shaped by the states, giving governors the flexibility they need.

Trip Van Noppen, president of Earthjustice

There is no graver challenge facing humanity right now than reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses. And there is no better place to start than the aging power plants currently pumping out 40 percent of the nation's carbon pollution. The substantial reduction in greenhouse gasses achieved by these safeguards will help avert or mitigate the ongoing disaster of climate change and the widespread effects it will have on public health.

Rob Sisson, president of ConservAmerica, a Republican environmental group

Transformation of our energy economy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build wealth and create jobs in the U.S. We need Republican leadership on this issue to insure America is the global leader in cleaner energy technology and innovation.  Addressing climate change isn’t just an economic opportunity, it is also a fundamental pro-life issue.

Mary Ann Hitt, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign

As dire warnings from climate scientists continue to escalate and what were once rare extreme weather events become increasingly common, we at the Sierra Club applaud today's announcement from the Environmental Protection Agency outlining its proposed protections from dangerous carbon pollution from existing power plants. These standards won't just take a big bite out of climate disruption, they’ll also help us tackle other serious power plant pollution that threatens our health, air and water - pollutants including soot, smog, and mercury.

Gabe Wisniewski, Greenpeace USA Climate and Energy Campaign Director 

President Obama’s proposed rule to limit power plants’ global warming pollution sends a clear signal to electric utilities: the time has come to stop clinging to century-old business models that cause global warming and poison our communities by burning coal and gas, and heed the growing demands from customers to switch to the efficient, renewable energy of today. The new rule shows that the Obama administration is serious about taking action on climate change, but the Administration could and should strengthen it considerably. Greenpeace’s Energy Revolution analysis, released in May, demonstrates that from a technical perspective, the US power sector could achieve almost twice the reductions proposed in the rule.

Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation

Energy efficiency is America’s cheapest, cleanest energy resource, and the best tool at our disposal to reduce pollution. As President Obama and the EPA recognize, there is great untapped potential in America’s buildings to save money, create jobs, and improve the economy by reducing energy waste. Making homes and businesses more energy efficient creates good jobs, which by their nature cannot be offshored, and the money saved is injected back into local economies.

Unions and business groups

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

The EPA has a track record of underestimating the impact of its rules, making faulty predictions that have cost tens of thousands of good jobs. In 2011 the IBEW and several other unions testified before the agency, predicting that 56 gigawatts of generation would be lost due to plant closings under then-proposed rules. At the time, the EPA estimated only 4.7 gigawatts would be lost. Our experience in the industry enabled us to see what the agency’s models could not. Approximately 90 percent of the plants scheduled to close were required to run during last winter’s polar vortex to prevent grid disruption. Experts now confirm that 56 gigawatts will indeed be lost by 2016. We will critically examine the new rules to determine how much additional capacity could be lost, and we hope the EPA will take our estimates seriously this time.

David Foster, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance

I'm really pleased to see the high level of flexibility states have to find solutions to carbon emissions. It gives states the ability to stretch the rules to find economic opportunity. In states that have energy intensive industries, the rules may lead to new technology that increases economic efficiency. You could see a big uptick in unionized installations of wind energy in some states. These rules could be the vehicle that makes financing these projects finally happen on a big level. It will take awhile for it to happen, but I'm confident that it will.

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil E. Roberts

The proposed rule issued today by the Environmental Protection Agency will lead to long-term and irreversible job losses for thousands of coal miners, electrical workers, utility workers, boilermakers, railroad workers and others without achieving any significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

The immediate focus for the labor movement will be what happens right here at home: Will our efforts to fight climate change be another excuse to beat down working Americans, or will we use this opportunity to lift employment standards, to create good jobs in places that need them, to make sure that the promise of a decent retirement after decades of dangerous, difficult work is honored?

If nothing happens, we will create more places like McDowell County, West Virginia, where the economy and the schools were devastated after coal production declined. We must think seriously about the nature of our national commitment to the people and communities who will suffer, through no fault of their own, because of the need to reduce climate-altering pollution.

Wayne Ranick, communications director for United Steelworkers

It will take some time to work through the rule and until we do so, we’re not making further comment.

Malcolm Woolf, senior vice president for policy and government affairs at Advanced Energy Economy 

Today’s proposal from EPA represents an opportunity to modernize the electric power system, making it higher performing and more consumer-focused while reducing emissions.

 

 

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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