In Light of First Ever National Carbon Pollution Standards for New Power Plants
Portland, ME – The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) New England office, Curt Spalding, joined a Portland roundtable today focused on proposed national standards, which, for the first time would limit climate-changing pollution from new power plants. The standards would affect only new power plants, and would set a pollution limit below traditional coal-fired power plants. Over one hundred people gathered to learn and speak about the new global warming standards and some of the benefits to Maine of reducing pollution from upwind coal plants.
Curt Spalding spoke about the reasoning behind the proposed rules, which are required under the Clean Air Act. The roundtable was hosted by the EPA and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
“One of the most important steps we can take to address global warming is to stop building new power plants that are going to contribute more to the problem,” said Lisa Pohlmann, Executive Director of NRCM.” Maine is already using a relatively cleaner mix of power—it’s time for the rest of the country to move forward, too. These standards are a win-win for Maine: we will see less air pollution flowing here from polluting plants upwind.”
The roundtable included a panel of thirteen Maine leaders, who provided the EPA and the audience with diverse perspectives on the importance of climate change and reducing air pollution for Maine.
“Warmer winters are a serious problem for those of us in the forest products industry,” said Harry Dwyer, a licensed forester and certified master logger from Fayette. “We need cold weather and snow cover to have a good logging season, but the back and forth freezing and thawing this winter made it very difficult to take on work. We only had about four straight weeks of real winter conditions instead of the usual 14. This eats into our income and means there is less work for loggers.”
“The state of Maine is as tightly coupled to the sea as any place on Earth,” said Professor Mark Green, an ocean acidification scientist from St. Joseph’s College. “Ocean acidification is an undisputed fact that severely threatens these species and is a powerful reason to reduce CO2 emissions, especially here in Maine. The shellfish industry alone generates over $50 million annually and employs approximately 3,000 harvesters and dealers, and last year Maine lobster landings were valued at over $330 million. Carbon pollution has already caused a 30% increase in ocean acidity with negative impacts already being observed.”
“One of the most concerning public health impacts of warming temperatures in Maine would be more smog and worsening lung disease, especially for vulnerable populations like children,” said Dr. Peggy Pennoyer, an allergy and asthma specialist from Scarborough. “We already have 23,000 kids and 93,000 adults with asthma in Maine. We need to do more to reduce pollution and slow global warming if we are serious about protecting our most vulnerable populations from the increasing impacts of asthma and lung disease.”
“I’ve travelled around to other states and, although they have good qualities, I always come back to Maine, reminded of how special it is,” said Sam Day, a 15-year old hunter and outdoorsman from Hallowell.
“When Senator Ed Muskie led the creation of the Clean Air Act more than four decades ago, he did not believe that government should compromise on setting standards for environmental protection,” said former Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe, reflecting on Maine’s participation in several lawsuits seeking carbon pollution standards under the Clean Air Act during his tenure. “Muskie believed that the air we breathe should be clean enough to protect the health of the most sensitive among us. It’s good to know the EPA is on the job taking action consistent with the fundamental values expressed by Senator Muskie. The new power plant standards will make significant reductions in harmful carbon pollution that threatens public health and causes climate change.”
“Climate change will be the defining environmental issue of this, the environmental century,” said Stephen Mulkey, the President of Unity College and a climate scientist.
“On the issues of climate change and energy sustainability, we need to move forward at every level, from cities to nationally,” said David Marshall, Portland City Councilor. “The City of Portland has invested in many energy efficiency improvements to reduce our climate-changing carbon emissions. Now the city has initiated a planning process to prepare for sea-level rise and storm surges.”
“The fortunate patients I see in the emergency room with heart trouble are often beginning a long, painful, expensive, and life changing journey—the unfortunate ones become tragedies,” said Dr. Tony Owens, an emergency room physician from Cape Elizabeth. “Compelling peer-reviewed data show a clear association between air quality and heart disease. Strong scientific evidence shows a reduction in the incidence of heart attacks and emergency department visits with improved air quality and reduction of air pollution at coal fired power plants.”
“Carbon pollution is a serious concern for people of faith, across faith traditions,” said Martha Kirkpatrick, Rector of St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Belfast and a former Commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. “We believe we are accountable for how we treat each other, especially children, the elderly, the sick, and those living in poverty. We are accountable for the legacy we leave our children.”
“The EPA proposal to limit carbon pollution from new power plants is a badly needed policy change that will impact energy supply,” said Mark Power, an energy efficiency engineer with Trane. “And there is also a great deal that each of us can do to reduce our energy demand through conservation. The primary focus of our business is to help institutions and businesses conserve energy and reduce their operating expenses. Time and again it has been proven that investment in energy conservation provides the best payback for taxpayers and business owners alike, and it has a significant long-term beneficial effect on the environment.”
It is unlikely that any new coal plants will be proposed in New England, but the region still gets about 10% of its power from existing coal plants. The new standards would not affect existing power plants. The new standards would ultimately reduce pollution blowing here from upwind power plants and would reduce the risk of extreme climate changes in Maine and worldwide. The U.S. is responsible for about 18% of the world’s global warming emissions, more than any other country except China (19%), and power plants are the leading source.
The EPA is inviting public comments on the proposed Clean Air Act standards until June 25, 2012 through its formal comment process. A broad range of environmental, business, and public health groups have supported the rules—and so has the general public. Today it was announced nationally that over one million comments had been submitted to the EPA in support of the standards, including over 8,100 comments from Maine people.
“We know polluting industries will work hard to defeat these new standards in Congress and in the courts, but the overwhelming public support demonstrates that tackling global warming and establishing sensible pollution standards are high priorities for Maine people,” said Pohlmann.
The event was sponsored by NRCM and the EPA, with several co-sponsors: Physicians for Social Responsibility; Maine League of Young Voters; Maine League of Women Voters; Maine Interfaith Power & Light; and the Maine Council of Churches.