The Billings Outpost

Montanans react to climate change plan

EDITOR’S NOTE: President Barack Obama and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy this week released the final Clean Power Plan, a step in the Obama administration’s fight against climate change. What follows is a roundup of responses to the plan.

White House fact sheet: We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital.

Extreme weather events – from more severe droughts and wildfires in the West to record heat waves – and sea level rise are hitting communities across the country. In fact, 14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all occurred in the first 15 years of this century and last year was the warmest year ever. The most vulnerable among us – including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty – are most at risk from the impacts of climate change. Taking action now is critical.

The Clean Power Plan establishes the first-ever national standards to limit carbon pollution from power plants. We already set limits that protect public health by reducing soot and other toxic emissions, but until now, existing power plants, the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, could release as much carbon pollution as they wanted.

The final Clean Power Plan sets flexible and achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, 9 percent more ambitious than the proposal. By setting carbon pollution reduction goals for power plants and enabling states to develop tailored implementation plans to meet those goals, the Clean Power Plan is a strong, flexible framework.

Al Ekblad, executive secretary of the Montana State AFL-CIO: “We’re very concerned about today’s announcement. The number appears to be much higher than what was in the proposed rule that came out last year.

“We are worried about what this means for the hundreds of working families whose livelihoods depend on the coal industry, the communities that depend on those jobs, Montana’s tax base and the ratepayer’s that could be impacted by these changes.

“We’ve spent the better part of a year talking to our members and we thought the initial plan would be workable. However, the number announced today was unexpected and seems unreasonable. President Obama literally changed the rules on us.

“We will continue to work with Governor Bullock’s administration to ensure the creation of a Montana plan that ensures Colstrip stays open. A State Implementation Plan is essential to making this happen. If we ignore this rule, we give all control to the federal government. That would obviously be a huge mistake.”

David Herbst, state director of Americans for Prosperity Montana: “Montana doesn’t need more regulation from Washington – especially not ones that will send our electric bills skyrocketing, cost thousands of jobs, and raise costs for consumers all across our state. This new plan would essentially amount to a federal takeover of Montana’s power grid and we just can’t afford it. We encourage state lawmakers to stand up to this federal overreach by refusing to submit a plan for implementation until the courts can adjudicate its constitutionality.”

Jeff Essmann, chairman of the Montana Republican Party: “Montana is on the front lines of the War on Coal, yet [Gov. Steve] Bullock sides with President Obama and the EPA on the battlefield – not Montana workers and their families. Montanans deserve a governor that will protect our energy industry and the thousands of good-paying jobs it supports.”

Ronni Flannery, healthy air director for the American Lung Association in Montana: “The American Lung Association in Montana welcomes the Clean Power Plan as a vital tool for protecting Montana residents from the burden of air pollution, including the carbon pollution from power plants that causes climate change. Nationwide, the Clean Power Plan will prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks and 3,600 premature deaths each year starting in 2030. That’s important for Montana’s children, older adults, people with low incomes, and those with chronic disease, who all face greater health risks from air pollution and climate change.”

The Montana Farmers Union: “The EPA rule, known as the Clean Power Plan, allows states to set unique standards to meet achievable and effective carbon pollution reduction goals by 2030. Montana farmers and ranchers already are feeling the adverse impacts of climate change. From drought and extreme weather to more robust cheatgrass and other weeds and pests, climate change is costing Montana agriculture producers in a variety of ways, including higher input costs and reduced yields and crop quality. While we always look at EPA rules and standards carefully, we are encouraged that the Clean Power Plan allows Montana the needed flexibility to design a plan that works for us while protecting Montana’s economy and reducing carbon pollution.”

Montana Wildlife Federation: “These rules represent the single largest step America has ever taken to curb climate change. They’re the result of a painstaking process that incorporated public comment at every step of the way. Montana is blessed with incredible outdoor amenities. Chief among them is our fish and wildlife resource. The changing climate threatens this economic driver in a myriad of ways. Every time a forest fire blows up, tourists head home. Every river that is closed to fishing due to high temperatures and low flows dissuades clients of outfitters from booking trips. Every time the number of hunting licenses made available to the public is reduced due to game population declines caused by some factor associated with climate change another hunter stays home.”

Dr. Lori Byron, pediatrician in Big Horn County: “The rising incidence of various health problems associated with pollution and the increasing severity of weather events associated with climate change are cause for concern. These problems lead to the inescapable conclusion that we need to reduce pollution and especially the amount of carbon dioxide emissions, one of the major contributors to climate change, entering our atmosphere. Our health, literally, is at stake.”

Robert K. Merchant, pulmonologist at Billings Clinic Hospital: “As a practicing pulmonologist in Billings, I see the adverse health consequences of air pollution every day. And while I find caring for sick people very rewarding, I strongly believe it is much better to prevent disease than treat it after it occurs. The Clean Power Plan represents real relief for the health of our communities. Efforts to lower carbon dioxide emissions will also lower other air pollutants, including deadly fine particulate matter, and will have an immediate, positive impact on public health, particularly for vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, older adults, and those who suffer from lung or heart disease.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 August 2015 20:44

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