Clean Wisconsin Praises New EPA Carbon Emissions Rules

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Clean Wisconsin Praises New EPA Carbon Emissions Rules

Premiere Date: 
June 6, 2014

Keith Reopelle, the group's policy director, says WI could surpass the new standards.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

The United States holds the world's largest estimated reserves of coal. In 2012 American coal mines produced more than a billion tons of it. More than 81% of this coal was used by US power plants to generate electricity, including power generated here in Wisconsin, where we get more than 60% of our energy from coal. We continue our discussion on the new EPA emission rules with Keith Reopelle of Clean Wisconsin. Thanks for being here.

Keith Reopelle:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

What about the argument that even if the US reduces its emissions the rest of the world won't and so there's no real benefit to the planet at large?

Keith Reopelle:

There's only a handful, only I think, four major developed countries that haven't already taken steps, and the United States is one of those. China, of course, is another. We are still the second largest emitter of coal on the planet as a nation, and we have the highest standard of living and by far the highest per capita carbon emissions. So if the United States addresses carbon emissions from the power sector, from our power plants, which is by far the largest source, that is absolutely going to make a huge difference.

Frederica Freyberg:

How difficult will it be to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% in Wisconsin by 2030?

Keith Reopelle:

These rules are put together in a way that is really extremely flexible. There's tons of flexibility in the rules for utilities in the state. And honestly, they are fairly modest. We could get much deeper reductions than that. So it is very, very doable. There's really four ways that the state-- that EPA outlines for the state to address the carbon emissions, through running the plants more efficiently, through using cleaner fuels, though investing in renewable energy and nuclear energy, which has zero carbon emissions, and energy efficiency. The way they came up with the budget is they looked at every state and opportunities they have and the most cost-effective opportunities, and they created a limit for each state. And this is very doable. And the good news, again, for the regulating community is the rules are very flexible. They have a lot of options.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now WMC says the cost to upgrade utilities will be borne by customers, resulting in the loss of jobs. And yet you say that the EPA rules will result in a 8% reduction in electricity bills, and that the reductions would grow jobs. So how can both things be true?

Keith Reopelle:

Well, both things won't be true. And we will see an increase in economic investment and jobs as a result of these rules. And, in the long run, our bills will go down. That 8% analysis is EPA's analysis. And WMC put out a statement on Monday citing three different studies that show job losses and higher rates. None of those studies analyzed anything close to what EPA has proposed. In fact, they're wildly, wildly inaccurate.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, Clean Wisconsin also cites public health as a reason to curb carbon emissions. Would this really help the person walking down the street with asthma in the next, you know, decade or so?

Keith Reopelle:

Absolutely. I mean, first of all, it's really important to remember that this is going to help our children and their children a lot more than it's going to help us, because this situation is going to get worse.   If we stop burning coal tomorrow, this situation is going to continue to get worse. These rules really lay out a very orderly sort of transition to cleaner energy sources. But we're already feeling the effects. There are already more asthma attacks, more hospitalizations, more respiratory disease as a result of smog that is formed on the hottest days in the summer in-- all over the country, but including here in Wisconsin. And it absolutely, the less carbon we are emitting, the less climate-- The less the temperatures increase, the fewer health impacts we're going to see. There's a direct correlation.

Frederica Freyberg:

We only have about 30 seconds left, but what do you say to climate change deniers?

Keith Reopelle:

The science has been in for so long. It is a tragedy we haven't taken more steps by now. And it would be completely irresponsible for us to not take these common sense steps. There is virtually unanimous agreement in the scientific community that climate change is happening and it's because of our burning of fossil fuels. There's just no question about that.

Frederica Freyberg:

Keith Reopelle, thanks very much.

Keith Reopelle:

Thank you. 


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