National Commentary

Congress Moran’s News Commentary: Supporting the EPA’s New Energy Standard

moran-fcnpWithout a major course correction, our present trajectory on climate change imperils our future. Each day that passes without action does more harm to our environment, our country, and our loved ones.

This is why I fully support the Environmental Protection Agency’s new energy standard, which serves as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. Earlier this week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced proposed regulations to reduce carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels, a baseline most scientists believe is necessary to prevent irreversible climate change.

The new standard relies heavily on the existing state-federal Clean Air Act partnership which enables states to develop their own path to reduce carbon emissions. States will have the flexibility to cut emissions based on what makes the most sense for their unique situations.

President Obama is justifiably using his executive powers enacted by the Clean Air Act due to Republican intransigence in addressing climate change. Just last week, the House passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill that prevents the Pentagon from using funds to implement climate change assessments against the advice of the Department of Defense.

Building on the tailpipe emissions standards proposed last year for new cars and trucks, this week’s proposal will affect the electric utility industry responsible for nearly 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the U.S. Carbon is the largest driver of climate change and a main contributor to increased global temperatures responsible for more prolonged droughts, heat waves, wildfires, more frequent and extreme weather events, like hurricanes and tornadoes, and rising sea levels.

Coal-fired plants also produced 1.45 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2012, equivalent to around 305 million cars on the road. Besides releasing heat-trapping carbon dioxide, these power plants emit harmful co-pollutants that the new standard will help limit. Sulfur dioxide and mercury will be reduced by 27 percent each and nitrogen oxides by 22 percent, all of which contribute to asthma, lung, and respiratory diseases. Overall, over 25 percent of pollutants that make people sick will be reduced through McCarthy’s emission reduction plan.

Virginia does not top the list of states with the dirtiest energy but that does not inoculate us to the effects of climate change. A coastal state with the largest naval base in the world, Virginia is already being impacted. Norfolk’s sea levels have risen one and a half feet in the last century and continue to rise faster than anywhere else on the east coast. Moreover, the Mid-Atlantic region is ranked 8th in the American Lung Association’s 2014 State of the Air report in terms of ozone pollution, with Richmond ranked the country’s asthma capital.

We have a duty to protect our children and future generations from the effects of climate change. In my remaining time in Congress, I will work to ensure that House Republicans don’t succeed in blocking the Administration’s efforts to implement President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to promote a cleaner, more energy efficient, and healthier environment for us all.