OPED: Wolf and DEP right to forge ahead on Clean Power Plan

  • Majority of Pennsylvanians believe we should cut carbon pollution that fuels global warming
  • Although the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay of the Clean Power Plan, state leaders are moving ahead
  • Consumer demand and market forces are already moving us away from dirty, polluting energy sources like coal
Elowyn Corby

Under Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, Pennsylvania has become a national leader in the fight against climate change, which is among the most profound issues of our day.  By tackling climate change, Wolf is siding with the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, who agree across party lines that our state should cut the carbon pollution that’s fueling the problem, according to a Public Opinion Strategies survey.

Why are so many Pennsylvanians calling for action? Because we’re already feeling the effects of climate change, which has moved from a distant threat to a present danger.  Nine out of 10 Pennsylvanians live in areas that were recently designated as disaster zones due to extreme weather, according to the PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center report called “9 out of 10 Pennsylvanians Live in Areas Hit by Recent Weather Disasters." We also know that climate change loads the dice for more of the same unless we reduce dangerous carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.

And this is where Wolf’s leadership comes in: Although the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a temporary stay of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan — which is the largest step the nation as a whole has ever taken to combat climate change — Wolf and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Quigley have pledged to continue planning to meet the Plan’s pollution reduction goals. They are right to do so: climate change is not going to pause or slow down, and neither should Pennsylvania’s leaders when it comes to this important work.

Coal industry representatives want the public and legislators to believe that the Court’s temporary stay of the Clean Power Plan should stop states from developing their own plans to cut carbon pollution. In reality, the stay is not a decision about the merits of the plan, nor does it prohibit or even discourage states from moving ahead. The Supreme Court has already established EPA’s authority to limit carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act, due to carbon pollution’s serious effects on public health. Polluters’ lawsuits and obstructionism delay the relief that is badly needed by thousands suffering with asthma and other respiratory illness.

Pennsylvania DEP has already held fourteen public listening sessions and collected feedback from a broad array of stakeholders, including energy generators, to ensure that Pennsylvania’s plan to tackle climate change considers our unique energy landscape. Citizens, families, environmental and health advocates and others overwhelmingly urged DEP to develop a state plan that promotes cleaner energy and renewables.

DEP holds listening session on clean power plan

Consumer demand and market forces are already moving us away from dirty, polluting energy sources like coal. The growing clean energy sector is proof that we can protect our health and environment while also creating jobs and strengthening the economy. Solar power has tripled nationwide in the last two years, and companies in the wind and solar sectors are positioned for further growth.  Innovation and investment in clean energy and efficiency won’t be stifled just because the enforcement of the Clean Power Plan is currently on hold.

Editor's Note: PennEnvironment and the Coal Alliance are addressing counterpoints of the Clean Power Plan issue.