The Clean Power Plan
When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was formed it was charged with setting the standards for curbing emissions of 6 criteria pollutants:carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, ozone molecules, particulate matter and lead. Notice what was not on the list….carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas.Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere which makes the Earth warmer. It’s a natural process we need to keep our planet habitable. However, you don’t want to have too many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or the earth will get too warm causing oceans to expand, glacier ice to melt and sea level to rise. This creates a whole host of problems causing heated debates (pun intended) about global warming. Carbon Dioxide stays in the atmosphere for decades and, to put it simply, since air moves it is a global issue and a very hot worldwide topic (pun intended again).
In 2007, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the EPA must regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act if the EPA finds those emissions could “reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” (Massachusetts et al v. EPA 549 U.S. 497 (2007).
In 2009 the EPA did so find and issued an endangerment finding. In September, 2013 the EPA announced proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants. In August, 2015 President Obama unveiled The Clean Power Plan which established the first national standards to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Why all the attention on power plants? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration 37% of U.S. carbon pollution came from power plants in 2015. Coal is the primary source used to generate electricity in the U.S. The combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
The state of Texas is responsible for the greatest amount of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustions in the United States, and we also produce the greatest amount of hazardous waste. This makes sense given that we have more oil refineries, chemical plants and coal-fired plants than any other state. Everything’s bigger in Texas! Texas is part of a bipartisan coalition of 24 states that is suing the EPA over the Clean Power Plan claiming they are overreaching their authority. Despite this lawsuit, on April 22, 2016 the United States signed the Paris Climate Agreement along with 174 other countries. It is a non-binding treaty aimed at slowing the rise of greenhouse gases such as CO2. It takes effectonce 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions formally join. Since America and China account for over 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions our participation is critical.
Questions to consider in this week’s assignment:
Is Global Warming caused by human activity in your opinion?
What do you think about the lawsuit filed by Texas against the EPA trying to thwart the Clean Power Plan? (Remember that Texas is also a major producer of natural gas. Wouldn’t the Clean Power Plan benefit Texas)?
Is the Paris Climate Treaty still viable now that the United States under the Trump Administration has decided to withdraw from the treaty?