Gov. Tom Corbett and 14 other Republican governors have sent a letter to President Barack Obama expressing their opposition to proposed federal controls on greenhouse gas emissions from coal-burning power plants.
The four-page Sept. 9 letter from the governors, almost all from coal-producing or coal-burning states, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has overstepped its legal authority in proposing the first carbon curbs on power plants and has raised a host of compliance and economic questions.
If the administration can’t answer those questions well in advance of the Oct. 16 public comment deadline, the EPA should “withdraw the proposal until it gives due consideration to these critical concerns,” the governors said.
The standards proposed by the EPA in June would cut carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels. The proposals set individual goals for states and allow them to craft policies to reach their particular reduction goals.
Public hearings were conducted on the proposals in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Denver and Washington, D.C., at the end of July. The proposed standard requires a 32 percent reduction of carbon pollution from Pennsylvania power plants by 2030 from 2012 levels. Those power plants put out 48 percent of the state’s carbon pollution, according to the EPA.
The rule also would reduce airborne particle emissions by more than 25 percent, according to the EPA, while providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits.
Those health benefits in 2030 include avoidance of an estimated 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 childhood asthma attacks and 490,000 missed days of work or school.
Patrick Henderson, Mr. Corbett’s energy adviser and deputy chief of staff, said in a written statement that there are “serious questions over the accuracy of the commensurate benefits the EPA has touted,” and he denied that the governor’s position favors the energy industry over public health.
“Mr. Corbett’s utmost priority is the health and welfare of Pennsylvanians,” Mr. Henderson said. “That includes clean air, clean water, but it also means access to affordable energy [that] improves quality of life. As he has said several times, freezing in the dark is not an environmental victory.”
Christina Simeone, Energy Center director for Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, a statewide environmental organization, said the administration has taken an obstructionist position on the greenhouse gas rules rather than review options for compliance that would provide the most cost-effective plan for the state’s residents and businesses.
If the EPA finalizes the greenhouse gas rules now under consideration, Mr. Henderson declined to say whether Mr. Corbett is considering a legal appeal individually or jointly with the other governors who signed the letters, but he added that would depend on how the administration addresses the legal and policy concerns raised in the letter.
Of the governors signing the letter, 11 are from the top 22 coal-producing states, according to National Mining Association statistics, and eight governors represent the states that produce the most electricity from coal.
Pennsylvania is fourth in the amount of coal mined and power produced by burning coal.
Don Hopey: email@example.com or 412-263-1983.