Editorial: Obama’s coal plan catches up with climate policy in Olympia
The Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to move the nation to reduce carbon pollution with corresponding health and climate impacts.
Seattle Times Editorial
USING the existing federal powers of the Environmental Protection Agency, President Obama is acting to reduce carbon pollution and its known effects on climate change and personal health.
The 645-page rule gives states time and regulatory flexibility to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. The overall goal is a 30 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2030.
Washington is already well on the way with legislation achieved by former Gov. Chris Gregoire. As The Times reported Tuesday, roughly 70 percent of the state’s carbon dioxide emissions from power plants come from a single source, a TransAlta coal plant in Centralia. It must stop burning coal in 2025 under the legislation.
Washington is a ready example of how progress can be made, accommodated and phased in over time. The transition allows for alternative power sources and supplies to come online.
The EPA directive is grounded in a market-based device the nation already knows can work. In 1990, a cap-and-trade system was employed to dramatically reduce acid rain, the product of sulfur-dioxide emissions from power plants.
Republicans in Congress at the time were enthusiastic supporters of a free-market solution. GOP leadership now opposes use of the same successful approach.
The arguments against this new EPA plan are hardly consistent. Manufacturing lobbyists say the new rules could send jobs overseas, as if that has not been going on for years.
Another Republican complaint is that the U.S.is going after carbon pollution as China and India will continue to burn coal. So, is the next logical conclusion that the Obama administration should stop leasing federal coal lands to be mined for export and to stop all those trains hauling coal to West Coast ports for export?
The U.S. has an opportunity to develop and promote new jobs and employment going into the 21st century. Renewable energy, conservation and alternative energy forms look ahead. Promote the transition from coal, and quit chasing votes with a curious allegiance to 19th century technology.
Cutting pollution and nurturing energy efficiency can create incomes and save consumers money over time. The president is also rightly pointing toward the human and financial benefits of better health. America can literally breathe easier.
Rethinking how the United States produces and consumes energy is a basic economic reality. For decades, the country refused to produce higher mileage cars and trucks as those markets and jobs went to overseas manufacturers.
States have been given the time and flexibility to comply with new rules. Check out what Washington has achieved and is looking to do next.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).
Information in this editorial, originally published June 4, 2014, was corrected June 6, 2014. A previous version stated that roughly 80 percent of the state’s total carbon dioxide emissions came from the TransAlta coal plan in Centralia. The plant is responsible for closer to 70 percent of the state’s CO2 emissions solely from power plants.