When the EPA Makes the Call…

…the threat is real. History was made on Monday when President Barack Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency announced a carbon-cutting plan that surpasses any other legislative attempt to curtail the effects of climate change. While the President’s efforts to address environmental issues may have been disappointing in the past, we can’t forget that an indecisive and unsupportive Congress didn’t make taking action any easier. President Obama has been left no choice but to practice his executive power over Congress and use a lifeline that dates back to the beginning of our nation’s collective acknowledgment that human health is governed by the environment: The Clean Air Act.

This is not just about disappearing polar bears or melting ice caps,this is about protecting our health and our homes. This is about protecting local economies and jobs.” – EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy via USA Today

Formulated in 1970, the Clean Air act gives the EPA the final say in making environmental regulations. Put into action, this ruling is reserved for critical incidences where a proven risk to human health and safety is apparent. Not only is the EPA currently taking the executive role in assessing the issue of climate change and regulating the emissions of carbon dioxide, its calling for a very urgent, very momentous change. The plan proposes that by 2030, national carbon emissions should be cut by 30%, with each state assigned its own percentage decrease based on present individual emissions. The President has offered a range of solutions to reaching this goal, the most effective ones being a decrease in coal-powered energy consumption, and creating cap and trade programs. Coal, the largest air pollutant contributing to carbon emissions, would be replaced by alternative forms of energy, and states with high emission rates would be able to buy emission permits from those who use less. Such an aggressive (though necessary) agenda has, of course, caused some uproar. In summary, many are opposing the plan with fear that:

  1. Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost as coal mines and power plants are shut down
  2. With less immediate, cheap energy a majority of households will face an unaffordable increase in expenses
  3. As we search for alternative forms of energy, foreign dependance will increase and threaten national security
  4. Even if we do meet our goal, other big polluters like China and India will not be persuaded to follow, as they believe the US is the last country with the right to suggest behavioral changes
  5. Cap and trade is dangerous by nature in that it is market driven, and doesn’t drive home the message that pollution in general needs to drastically decrease

The lines are blurred and not all of the backlash the President has received is undeserved, but with the help of the EPA most of these beliefs can be thwarted. (1) The dependency on coal, over the next 15 years, only needs to decrease by 7%. Every year the number of mines and factories lowers as natural and alternative energies become cheaper. Yes, jobs would be lost, but even more would be created. (2) With energy sources like solar and wind, households can control their own consumption – the only cost is installation. And, again, natural gas keeps decreasing in price. (3) The former explanations relieve this concern and alternative energy could even become a commodity to be traded. Using the earth as energy, especially with wind and solar, is applicable to everyone no matter where the location. (4) This one is fuzzy, as we can’t control the emotional and logical arguments made by countries who, though bigger polluters now, are only recently seeing the kind of development and consequential pollution the US has been practicing for decades. (5) This fear, I believe, is real. Cap and trade is not the answer and it suggests that state lines are walls that have their own atmosphere. The damage caused to the environment impacts the entire planet, it is just at the fault of a few. This solution worries me, but I think the intention of including it in the plan was a sincere one in an attempt to reach the 30% goal in time.

…the most important step taken to combat the climate crisis in our country’s history.” – Al Gore on Monday’s proposal via USA Today

What’s certain is that in the next 2 years, as the EPA fights for approval and states determine how they will meet their demands, lawsuits will occur, predictions in state primaries will be altered, and the divide between our governmental parties will likely expand. We can only hope that citizens outside the government will see the urgency in this move by the EPA and urge their state to change and not take the defensive.


*This blog was based on an article published in USA Today

Allison Beauregard

Allison is a New York City based writer with a focus on sustainability. Her work demonstrates how it is possible to have the “things” that make us happy without compromising the resources that provide these goods. With this vision, Allison sees a future where environmental degradation is reversed and the quality of human life is equally distributed. She is the Category Editor of The Franklin Report and was among the top 5 contributors for Elephant Journal in October 2014.

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