Panelists discuss benefits to Maine from addressing climate and establishing national standards, which parallel existing standards in Maine and Northeast
Portland, ME – Support is building in Maine for national standards that would limit climate-changing pollution from new power plants. Such standards are being pursued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Today, Maine residents gathered to learn and speak about the new climate pollution standards and some of the benefits to Maine of reducing climate pollution from upwind power plants. The panel included diverse perspectives on how climate change already is affecting Maine, with impacts projected to worsen significantly if unmitigated. Concurrent with today’s Portland forum, the EPA is gathering input across the country for limits on existing power plants, which will be proposed next year as part of President Obama’s National Climate Plan.
Power plants account for 40 percent of the carbon pollution in the United States, and while Clean Air Act standards currently protect public health with limits on arsenic, mercury, soot, and other pollution from power plants, there are no existing federal limits on carbon pollution. The new carbon pollution standards will ensure that future power plants are prohibited from dumping unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. Limits on existing power plants would require reductions over time, and would likely parallel limits under the existing Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based program that requires climate pollution reductions from power plants in Maine and the Northeast.
The roundtable included a panel of six Maine leaders, who provided the audience with diverse perspectives on the importance of addressing climate change through actions from the local level up to the federal level. Comments gathered at the forum will be submitted to the EPA.
“Clammers and other fishermen rely on a healthy marine environment in order to provide healthy whole food to citizens and contribute to the economy,” said Sara Randall, spokesperson for the Maine Clammers Association. “Unfortunately, our ability to continue doing so is in jeopardy because of the effects of climate change. Our fisheries are already seeing the impacts of rising ocean temperatures, non-native species invasions, and acidification. Now that we know that greenhouse gas emissions are harming our oceans, doing nothing is irresponsible and downright criminal.”
“I am honored to be asked to participate in this roundtable, and support President Obama’s efforts on climate change. I want to ensure that Portland is doing all that it can to limit carbon emissions,” said Portland Mayor Michael Brennan.
“When you work in an emergency room like I do, you know that nothing is more important than the health of our loved ones,” said Dr. Tony Owens from Cape Elizabeth. “If we don’t take significant action on power plant pollution, climate change will worsen the air quality problems that cause respiratory illness, increase heat-related distress and deaths, and expand insect-borne diseases like Lyme and West Nile.”
“A large part of our economy depends on visitors who appreciate the natural resources that are the foundation of Maine’s quality of life,” said Scott Cowger, co-owner of the Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center in Hallowell. “The negative impact of climate change threatens much of what we have to offer our visitors. Our magnificent fall foliage, clear cool lakes and rivers, stunning coastal areas, and thrilling winter sports throughout our state are all somewhat at risk from the warming effects of climate change. We all need to do our part to reduce the carbon footprints from our homes and businesses and to support policy measures that will reduce carbon pollution from the largest emitters.”
“Reducing pollution from power plants may be easier than people think,” said David Clay, a long-time energy and HVAC consultant. “In Maine we’ve used cost-effective energy efficiency investments to slash the amount of power we need. And we’ve used RGGI, the program that limits power plant pollution, to further fund energy efficiency programs, cutting pollution and reducing energy bills.”
The roundtable event was sponsored by Environment Maine, Maine Conservation Voters, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and Sierra Club Maine.
The EPA will soon formally invite additional public comments on the proposed Clean Air Act standards for new power plants, and has begun the process of gathering input from the public, stakeholders, and states on the standards for existing power plants. A broad range of environmental, business, and public health groups have supported the rules—and so has the general public. When the standards for new power plants were first announced in 2012, the EPA received two million comments in support of the standards, including more than 8,100 comments from Maine people.
The EPA has indicated that it hopes to use strong state and regional climate pollution programs such as RGGI as the means to implement power plant limits in those areas. Independent studies have found that RGGI has provided more than $92 million in benefits to the Maine economy since its inception, primarily by driving down energy costs for consumers, businesses, and industry through investments in energy efficiency.