Environment

 

The comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed greenhouse gas standards ended on Monday, and more than two million individuals, states, corporations and trade groups were eager to weigh in.

The proposed regulations set carbon dioxide reduction goals for each state; Kentucky will have to cut emissions by 18 percent by 2030. Where exactly those reductions come from are left up to individual states, but the stricter regulations favor lower-carbon fossil fuels—like natural gas—or renewable energy. The overall goal is to get carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, in an effort to slow climate change.

The coal industry has been outspoken about its opposition to the plan, and the written comments follow that vein. National Mining Association President Hal Quinn urged the EPA to withdraw the proposal, warning that it would place the country’s electricity reliability in jeopardy.

“A growing chorus of experts – from grid managers and regulators to energy economists and utility executives – has warned EPA of the costly consequences for American households and industries from this reckless gamble with the nation’s grid. They find EPA’s proposal unrealistic, unworkable and dangerous. The plan would place at further risk the reliable functioning of an electricity grid that the agency has already seriously weakened with its earlier regulations.

“EPA’s costly power plan poses unacceptable risks. If the agency does not withdraw it, states should protect their citizens and reject it.”

The comments were echoed by groups like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Many of these groups challenge the EPA’s authority to regulate coal-fired power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

Environmental groups cheered the regulations—and some businesses did, too. Non-profit Ceres, which works with investors and corporations interested in sustainability, released a letter earlier this week signed by 223 companies in favor of the new regulations. Ceres President Mindy Lubber said the companies recognize the importance of limiting carbon dioxide emissions.

“The importance of this policy cannot be overstated,” she said. “It kickstarts an orderly manageable transition in all 50 states away from fossil fuels and toward a low-carbon energy plan.”

But she added that for the companies Ceres represents, reducing greenhouse gas emissions isn’t just about helping the environment. Many see financial benefits to sustainability.

“More than ever before, businesses are setting ambitious goals to reduce their own energy use, lower their carbon footprints and source more and more renewable energy,” Lubber said. “They’re achieving these goals and in so doing, they’re improving their bottom line and helping the environment.”

The EPA plans to finalize the rules by June 2015.