EDITORIAL: Fighting for the right to pollute?

York Dispatch

Two days.

That's how long it took 16 states to officially balk at the Obama administration's new Clean Power Plan, which mandates a 32 percent cut in carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 2030.

Apparently, this is a bad thing in the eyes of those states' attorneys general, who co-signed a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency asking that the rules be put on hold while they mount a legal challenge.

They claim the rules exceed the president's authority — an argument we think holds water about as well as their borders hold pollution.

It's not like carbon dioxide emissions recognize state lines. When a state's power plants pollute its neighbors' air, it's no longer a state problem — it's clearly a federal issue.

We're concerned about global warming, health risks and quality-of-life issues, even if states such as West Virginia, whose attorney general is leading the charge against the new EPA rules, are not.

The air in the York-Harrisburg-Lebanon region is ranked 12th worst in the country for annual particle pollution and 19th worst for 24-hour particle pollution, according to the American Lung Association's 2015 State of the Air report.

York County alone received "F" grades for the number of high ozone days and the number of high particle pollution days.

We happen to be home to Brunner Island, York Haven's coal-burning power plant that placed No. 97 on PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center's 2014 report of the nation's 100 most polluting power plants.

And that's actually an improvement; it was ranked 59th position in the 2013 report.

But even while improving, Brunner Island's annual carbon emissions are equivalent to the emissions of 1.3 million vehicles, according to the recent report. That's not likely to make many people breathe easier.

Adam Garber, field director for PennEnvironment, said the EPA's plan isn't perfect but is a huge step in the right direction, especially as it creates a framework for increased use of renewables in the future.

In fact, Brunner Island's new owners announced this summer it was beginning a $100 million project to transform into a co-fire plant, meaning its three units could run off coal, the cleaner-burning natural gas or both.

Garber noted, yes, natural gas burns cleaner, but the extraction process creates other issues, such as methane leaks, that the EPA should be regulating.

These are the types of conversations states should be having as they create individual plans, due by 2018, to meet the requirements of the new Clean Air Plan.

Complaining about it is just a waste of precious air.