Statement to the Louisiana House Natural Resources Committee Hearing of Feb 12, 2015, USEPA Clean Power Plan
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee,
We, the undersigned request that you enter this letter into the public record because many of us could not be here in person. We are hard-working organizations that give voice to the citizens of Louisiana. We represent those who are seeing their land washed away by an eroding coast and rising sea levels. We speak for those who have lost their homes, not once, but repeatedly to ever more destructive coastal storms. We empower those who live under the burden of industrial pollution in their communities. We understand that there are powerful interests urging you to keep doing business as usual. We are speaking to the side of you that loves Louisiana, the health of it’s citizens, and the beautiful places in our state.
The link between elevated levels of greenhouse gas emissions and Louisiana’s chances for success in coastal restoration are well established by the scientific evidence (Louisiana State Master Plan 2012). The scientific consensus on rising sea levels tells us that large portions of the section of Louisiana below I-10 will likely have to be abandoned by 2100 if climate change continues on its present course. Louisiana needs to take action on reduction of carbon emissions as part of its strategy for the coast.
The USEPA proposed plan to control carbon emissions from electric power generation is an important step forward that helps the US to meet its global commitments and ensure that other countries also meet their reduction commitments. We urge Louisiana to support the EPA Clean Power Plan and not act to weaken the reputation and position of the United States globally.
We can make substantial contributions to the accomplishment of national goals in this regard by following these guidelines:
1. Go regional. According to USEPA emissions of CO2 from combustion of fossil fuels for electric power generation in Louisiana amounted to 42.96 Million Metric Tons in 2012. This places Louisiana in the top third of states for carbon emissions from the electric power sector. Louisiana could partner with Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas and other states to meet targets more affordably. In addition, launching of a regional effort will gain us extra time to create an implementation plan.
2. Embrace the flexibility. EPA allows for great flexibility to implement the Clean Power Plan. Louisiana has tremendous potential to create “virtual power plants” through energy efficiency. The Louisiana Public Service Commission has already helped by authorizing Utility-scale energy efficiency programs. The DEQ has the ability to utilize these savings as part of the state’s emission reduction targets. There is more potential through our state building codes, transportation options, and state building efficiency. Meeting the targets, at least partially through energy efficiency will actually create savings, not increase costs ,
3. Be Ahead Not Behind. There is no question that the President of the United States is serious about meeting national commitments. The EPA will implement Federal Plans if States do not adopt their own. Playing chicken with the President and EPA is NOT in the best interest of Louisiana citizens. Louisiana can develop a plan more specifically tailored to fit our needs than one developed by EPA. We can do better than the feds and we can develop a more cost effective plan.
4. Compete with Texas for “Best Energy State”. Texas embraces an ‘all of the above’ approach to their energy portfolio. Louisiana can too. Complying with the Clean Power Plan gives us an opportunity to create new wind and solar industries. The substantial improvement in wind turbine technology has opened up new markets in areas with lower sustained winds. The Legislature did the right thing in authorizing and then adjusting the state solar tax credit, which has contributed to the growth of new, high-paying jobs, but more can be done.
5. Manage Financial Risk by Minimizing the Carbon Bubble. Electric generators are already moving away from coal and towards cheaper natural gas and renewable energy . This is an ongoing trend that will reduce the cost of remaining conversions necessary to meet emissions reduction goals in the Clean Power Plan.
6. Focus on Keeping $ In-State. Louisiana spends $450 million/year (2012) to import Wyoming coal. In the 15 years from 2015 through 2030, roughly $6.75 billion will leave the State. Dollars being sent out of state to buy coal could be re-invested in Louisiana families and businesses. This would mean Louisiana jobs in design, construction, retrofitting and maintaining high efficiency natural gas and wind and solar installations.
7. Protect Louisiana’s Children, Protect Louisiana’s Reputation. Burning coal in power plants is the major source of mercury emissions in Louisiana. Mercury is very damaging to the unborn. Groups at highest risk are pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and children under seven years old. Mercury in the air settles in streams and accumulates in fish. There are 48 streams and lakes in Louisiana that have health warnings about consumption of fish because of mercury contamination. This is totally unacceptable for the Sportsman’s Paradise.
8. Don’t Make Policy In A Vacuum. There is a false choice before you. The false choice is between the cost of action versus business as usual. There is no business as usual. There is only the cost of addressing the problem now or a higher cost addressing the problem later. A study by the global reinsurance firm Munich Re examined natural disaster losses between 1980 and 2011, finding that weather-related loss events in North America “nearly quintupled” during the period. Currently, Americans spend about $300 per person per year on federal disaster programs that are responding to more frequent and more extreme weather events nationwide. This is an upward trend that the United States and the rest of the world’s nations are trying to address.
You, as the leadership in Louisiana State government, have a responsibility to protect the health and safety of the citizens you represent. We urge the Natural Resources Committee to take this matter seriously and direct the LDEQ to begin conversations with our neighboring states about creating a regional Implementation Plan that moves us forward and that shows leadership in dealing with these issues.
Haywood Martin, Chair
Sierra Club Delta Chapter
Casey DeMoss, CEO
Alliance for Affordable Energy
LT General Russel Honore (Ret)
Sandra Slifer, President
League of Women Voters of Louisiana
Marylee Orr, Executive Director
Louisiana Environmental Action Network
Anne Rolfes, Founding Director
Louisiana Bucket Brigade
Chief Sustainability Officer
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