Carbon Pollution Wild West No Longer: EPA Carbon Plan Inked, Huge Step on Climate To Tackle Fossil Fuel Plant Pollution

Media Contacts

Environment New Jersey

Trenton – Fossil fuel power plants will pollute 32 percent less nationwide by 2030 and clean energy sources such as solar, wind and energy efficiency will meet more of the state’s electricity needs, according to limits on carbon pollution finalized today that are central to President Obama’s plan to address climate change. 

“The Clean Power Plan is the single biggest action the U.S. has ever taken on climate and is great news for New Jersey,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Cracking down on fossil fuel power plants while ramping up wind, solar and energy efficiency is the best thing we can do to tackle global warming pollution. Reducing carbon pollution demands a national framework to work, and this will be one of President Obama’s defining legacies. The Christie Administration has failed to act on climate, so we’re thankful that EPA is providing a powerful climate backstop.”

New Jersey officials heralded the benefits the new pollution limits will bring the state, which has already been directly impacted by climate-impacted extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy and Irene. 

“For too long partisan politics driven by bad science has gotten in the way of taking bold, decisive action to address climate change. When the scientific community agrees that (man made carbon pollution) poses an existential threat to lives and livelihoods not only in the United States, but across the globe, we have a moral responsibility to act. Today’s rule not only represents an important first step in meeting that moral obligation, it pushes us on a path toward a renewable energy future.  I look forward to continuing to work to meet our growing environmental challenges head-on,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan sets state-by-state limits on heat-trapping emissions of carbon dioxide from power plants, the largest single source of such pollution in the country. Under the plan, each state determines how to meet its pollution cap. In New Jersey’s case, the plan will require an aggressive reduction in carbon pollution by 2030. 

New Jersey’s five dirtiest power plants combined make up 58% of New Jersey’s power sector emissions. Under the Clean Power Plan as proposed, New Jersey’s power plants will reduce carbon emissions by 10 million metric tons by 2025. Under policies in place and proposed at the state and federal level, New Jersey is set to cut a higher percentage of its carbon than all but three other states by 2025.

“The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is achievable, and will create a net economic benefit.  Solar energy and wind energy are dropping in cost so fast, they are already starting to take over.  In 2014, solar and wind provided more than half of all new electric generation capacity built in the U.S,” said Lyle Rawlings, President of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association.

New Jersey is well-positioned to meet its limits with increased development of clean energy, for which it has vast potential. Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Research shows that New Jersey has enough solar potential to power the entire state 7 times over. Generating 30% of the country’s electricity from wind would also eliminate as much pollution as 4.2 million cars in New Jersey. 

“By developing New Jersey’s abundant offshore wind resource the State can develop the new power generation it will need as coal and nuclear plants go offline, can grow its economy with new jobs and investment while being carbon neutral, and can stem the impact of climate change by moving towards an emission free grid.  We need the demonstration project in Atlantic City, the final implementation of the OREC regulations, and an open window for new project submissions at the BPU, all of which can be done and done immediately,” said Paul Gallagher, COO of Fishermen’s Energy.

Heat waves, extreme flooding, and rising sea levels are just a few of the impacts of climate change New Jerseyans have begun to experience, and Hurricane Sandy and Irene are just the most visible reminders. New Jersey saw a 33% increase in storms with extreme precipitation between 1948 and 2011. Between 2007 and 2012, New Jersey counties suffered an average of 4 federally declared emergency disaster declarations from extreme weather, which has only continued over the last 4 years. Atlantic County was the worst, with 9 federally declared disasters in the time period. 

Scientists predict that without drastic cuts in global warming emissions, these effects will likely become catastrophic. Former NASA scientist Jim Hansen recently issued a paper arguing that a more intense climate feedback loop could mean a 10 foot high rise in global sea levels by 2050. More conservative estimates from Rutgers University researchers estimate a foot and a half of seal level rise in the next 35 years, which would have devastating impacts for Shore communities.

The Clean Power Plan is also expected to bring public health benefits, since cutting power plant pollution also reduces soot, smog, and other harmful pollutants that are responsible for respiratory illness and even premature deaths. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the Clean Power Plan will save as many as 6,600 lives and prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks each year. In New Jersey alone, 154,363 children and 544,513 adults in New Jersey reported having asthma in 2015.

“America’s Clean Power Plan is the first-ever national curb on the most significant driver of human-caused climate pollution: carbon dioxide emissions. The plan will stimulate the deployment of clean, reliable and affordable energy sources of the 21st century,” said Moms Clean Air Force Regional Field Manager, Trisha Sheehan.  “More than 15,000 members of Moms Clean Air Force in New Jersey urge our governor to speedily work toward implementation plans in the Garden State for this historic standard.” 

Vast majorities of New Jerseyans across party lines support the carbon pollution limits, according to a recent poll. According to a Yale poll, 68 percent of New Jerseyans believe that global warming is happening and 78% support limiting carbon pollution from power plants. New Jersey citizens submitted more than 108,000 comments to the EPA amongst the 8 million submitted across the country in favor of the plan.

“We’re very excited about this new program, which will directly require New Jersey, along with other states, to come up with a viable plan to reduce carbon pollution – or accept that a federal plan will be imposed. As I wrote when Obama’s Climate Action Plan was unveiled in June 2013, the Obama Administration is finally bringing some sanity not only to the debate but more importantly to America’s policies going forward. This seems like an optimal time for New Jersey’s cities and towns to move forward with implementing the new PACE legislation, which was passed by both houses in June and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. Unlike most other Republicans, Governor Christie has said that he believes climate change is real; he now has the opportunity to join the emerging consensus as to what needs to be done about it,” said Jonathan Cloud, executive director of NJPACE. 

The fossil fuel industry, however, and its allies in Congress have launched multi-pronged assault against the Clean Power Plan in the courts, state capitols, and the U.S. Senate. The plan’s survival against these attacks is considered critical to U.S. leadership at international climate talks in Paris at the end of the year.

“Today’s action is thanks to all the New Jerseyans, together with millions of Americans, who called for strong climate action,” said O’Malley. “With continued leadership from President Obama, support from New Jersey’s leaders, and backing from the public, the U.S. can help steer an international agreement to stave off the worst of the climate crisis.”