On June 2, President Obama and the EPA announced first-ever carbon pollution limits on all existing power plants. It’s the most important climate action of his presidency, because power plants are America’s single largest source of extreme-weather intensifying, public-health threatening carbon pollution.
“As a doctor and a parent, I couldn’t be more excited about this announcement,” said Dr. David Hill, MD, member of Medical Advocates of Healthy Air. “In addition to reducing greenhouse gases, these changes should decrease rates of asthma, heart disease, and premature birth by cutting levels of fine particles, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide in the air we breathe. These changes will literally save the lives of countless children and adults.”
“This announcement is a huge win for the health of our families, our environment, and our clean energy economy,” said state representative Pricey Harrison. “It gives North Carolina a chance to increase jobs generating wind and solar power, and improved energy efficiency; jobs that cannot be outsourced. We are already a leader in the South, and I look forward to helping our state become a national leader in the clean energy economy.”
“These days faith and science are close allies,” said Rev. Steve Halstead, Pastor, Community United Church of Christ. “The science is clearly proven about human induced global warming and climate change. The role of religious faith is to give us the moral imperative to change our lifestyle and safeguard our environment for future generations. The EPA’s carbon safeguards are one important element in changing our lifestyle to meet this threat.”
Carbon pollution fuels climate change, triggers more asthma attacks and respiratory disease, worsens air quality, and contributes to more frequent, more destructive, more costly and more deadly extreme weather events. North Carolina’s power plants are responsible for 51 percent of the carbon pollution in the state.
In addition to public health benefits, speakers highlighted the economic benefits that the carbon rule could bring. According to a recent analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council the rule could help create more than 6,700 jobs and save North Carolinians $713 million dollars in electricity bills.
“North Carolina is poised and ready to become a leader in green technology,” said Robert Bruck, Alumni Distinguished Professor of Environmental Science, N.C. State University. “Our state can and should have a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions by developing, manufacturing and harnessing solar and wind energy technologies for the benefit of our citizens and the global community.”
“As a conservationist and sportsman, I see the impact of climate change and the desperate need for carbon emission reductions,” said John Robbins, owner of Greathorn Properties and Vice Chair for the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “As a businessman, I see the potential for improved technologies spurred by these rules to create jobs. I also see the eventual disastrous impacts on business, along with every other aspect of our lives, as a necessary result of inaction on these proposed rules for power plant improvements.”
While many states and local communities, including here in North Carolina, have taken action on climate change, this new federal safeguard will set commonsense limits on carbon pollution, inspire investment in infrastructure to protect communities from the climate change impacts they are already experiencing, and spur the kind of innovation that will power America with clean energy in the 21st century. The new safeguards will also give states flexibility to implement plans that increase efficiency, improve resiliency and remove carbon pollution from our air.
North Carolina is especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Along the coast, sea levels are rising about three times more quickly than they are globally. Climate change is also expected to cause Asheville and Raleigh to experience twice as many bad air days, and Wilmington will have more than double what they’ve had in the past.
“The reality is we are already starting to feel the impacts of global warming,” said David Rogers, field director for Environment North Carolina. “From rising sea levels to more extreme storms like Hurricane Sandy, climate change is here. This rule gives us a chance to give our children a legacy we can be proud of.”