By U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine
Foster’s Daily Democrat op-ed
Imagine you’re at the table on Thanksgiving Day with your family and one of your relatives snatches up the whole turkey and says, “Thanks, this is all mine!” without any consideration for the rest of your family. Hard to imagine because it wouldn’t happen, right?
Well, it’s not a stretch to say that’s really what our generation is doing with the Earth. As we continue to dig out all of the rich resources — which took millions of years to produce — and continue to burn them up in just a few hundred years without any regard for the energy security of and environmental impact on future generations, we’re in effect snatching away the turkey.
The simple fact is our climate is changing, and it’s up to us to do something about it because ignoring the problem will only make matters worse for the next generation and generations to come.
That’s why I welcomed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recently released proposed rules aimed at reducing our country’s carbon emissions from the electricity sector. The rules, which are being called the Clean Power Plan, would lower emissions from power plants 30 percent by 2030. This is the most significant step we’ve ever taken to combat global climate change.
Under the Clean Power Plan, the state of Maine will be required to reduce our CO2 emissions by 13.5 percent between now and 2030. This is both reasonable and achievable. In fact, as a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), Maine already has the mechanisms in place to do this.
And importantly, the Clean Power Plan provides a significant amount of flexibility to states and industry. This approach allows the state of Maine to determine for ourselves the most feasible and effective ways to achieve the new targets. I applaud the agency for avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach — this sort of cooperative federalism is exactly how our government should work. The federal government sets an outcome, and allows the states and industry to determine the most economically efficient means to achieve that outcome.
Far too often, the debate over climate change is cast as a choice between economic development and the environment, but I believe the two are not mutually exclusive. As the proposed EPA regulations prove, we can take steps to protect the environment while also promoting development, particularly in the form of clean energy jobs. Maine is already on the forefront of biofuel, wind, and other clean energy technologies, and the Clean Power plan will only buoy the development already under way here in the Pine Tree State. And, it will serve the double benefit of reducing pollution that blows into our state from the Midwest — for too long Maine has been at the end of the nation’s tailpipe.
In Maine, we have seen the very real effects of climate change on our coast as lobster and fish move north. And don’t for a minute think that the impacts will be limited to the coast. For evidence that interior Maine will not be spared the effects of climate change, look no further than one of our state symbols — the seemingly invincible moose. Our moose population has been decimated by a drastic increase in ticks, which thrive in abnormally warm weather. Unpleasant facts like these underscore the need to limit the amount of carbon we’re throwing into the atmosphere.
To be sure: federal regulations can sometimes be burdensome, duplicative, and even down-right unnecessary. But when well-written and carefully considered, regulations also have the power to shape our country in an overwhelmingly positive way (as proven by Maine’s own Ed Muskie, who wrote the original Clean Air and Water Act that allow for these types of rules). The EPA’s new carbon regulations fall in the latter category, and represent a landmark moment in America’s attempt to be responsible stewards of our planet.