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Coal, climate issues heating up
September 22, 2009
Fall is upon us, Code Black Alert! is back on the job, and coal and climate issues are hot.
- This summer, our allies in South Carolina succeeded in defeating a proposed 1,200 megawatt coal-fired power plant. A vigorous coalition of local environmentalists led the effort, and PSR provided them with medical data and expertise through written testimony, TV and radio appearances, letters to the editor and op-ed articles. The plant was going to be built in the little town of Florence, in a lowlands area where many rivers are already under alerts for mercury contamination.
- Several PSR chapters have joined the next phase in the effort to phase out coal: trying to close down existing coal plants. The PSR-Oregon and PSR-Washington chapters are both working with local coalitions to make their states "coal-free." Watch this blog for future developments.
- Climate and energy legislation is under discussion on Capitol Hill. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) introduced an amendment today that would strip away EPA's authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions coming from the biggest polluters in the country, including coal plants.
The amendment is a back-door effort to hamstring the EPA, which has been powerfully effective in improving US air quality and protecting public health. Thanks to the EPA, air in our nation's cities is substantially cleaner. Nearly the entire country is meeting air quality targets set for carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. Ozone air quality has improved in 99 of the 104 areas designated as having unhealthy ozone levels.
PSR is working intensively to assure that this damaging amendment does not pass.
- President Obama delivered a speech at the United Nations today where he acknowledged the gravity of global warming. Noting that "the security and stability of each nation and all peoples – our prosperity, our health, our safety – are in jeopardy," he warned that an inadequate response to global warming would lead to "irreversible catastrophe."
The President lauded the steps the nation has taken since he entered office: government investment in renewable energy, programs to increase energy conservation in homes and offices, new CAFE standards for increased fuel economy (and reduced greenhouse gas pollution) for new cars and trucks, and the EPA's just-announced commitment to maintain a registry that tracks CO2 emissions. However, he was silent on the key policy issue the nations of the world will face in Copenhagen in December: specific targets and timetables for reducing carbon emissions.
PSR supports climate legislation that would return atmospheric greenhouse gases to 350 parts per million, the safe upper limit that provides a more than 90% probability of staying within 2°C of preindustrial global temperatures.