Yesterday, Environment Texas held a news conference to highlight local support for the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Here are the prepared remarks of our speakers, including me, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, businessman and Earth Day Texas founder Trammell Crow, and Melissa Ashmore of Interfaith Power and Light.
Luke Metzger, Director, Environment Texas
- We’re here today to applaud the Clean Power Plan, the largest step the US has ever taken to tackle the climate crisis. The plan was signed into law by President Obama and the EPA earlier this month.
- The rule couldn’t come soon enough – global warming has taken a serious toll on Texas and, without immediate action, will only get worse.
- 2015 is on pace to be the hottest year on record – following a trend of 14 of the 15 hottest years coming since 2000. The average temperature in Texas has increased 1.7 degrees since the 1970s.
- Texas and the US experienced the wettest May on record, a pattern consistent with what climate scientists have long predicted as temperatures rise. Our research has shown extreme rainstorms are happening 29 percent more frequently in Texas since 1948. Moreover, the biggest storms are getting bigger. The largest annual storms in Texas now produce 10 percent more precipitation, on average, than they did 65 years ago.
- We know what’s causing the problem: the unchecked rise of carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases, mostly from burning fossil fuels. In the US, power plants are the largest single source of global warming pollution, making up 40 percent of carbon pollution. Just the power plants in the US put out nearly as much pollution as the entire economies of fifteen countries, including Canada, Mexico and Brazil, collectively produce.
- Texas ranks 1st in the nation for carbon pollution from power plants, with power plant emissions equal to that of 47 million cars. The top 5 dirtiest power plants in Texas are responsible for 27% of carbon pollution from the state’s electric sector and 10% of total state emissions.
- By 2030, the Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution from power plants nationwide 32 percent and in Texas 34 percent
- Texas has the tools it needs to shift away from dirty power to a clean energy future. We’re already the national leader in wind power and our research shows that the state could generate enough energy from wind to power 17.5 million homes by 2030.
- And of course the sun is an incredible resource that shouldn’t be ignored in Texas, where we get enough sun to power the state 170 times over. An American home or business went solar every 3 minutes on average in 2014, and we can do much better right here, where we have 3 million rooftops across the state that could host solar panels.
Judge Clay Jenkins
- Global warming is no longer just something far off in the future to worry about – it’s happening right here, right now in Dallas.
- Scientists have well-documented the links between global warming and extreme weather, including the tragic rain bomb and flooding we got in May. That flooding cost four people in Dallas their lives and led to more than $61 million in damage in Dallas County (city of Dallas reported $50 million in storm damage; Carrollton, Garland, Irving and Grand Prairie reported at least $2 million each) http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/dallas/headlines/20150608-dallas-county-damage-exceeds-61-million-after-mays-extreme-rainfall-floods.ece
- Global warming is also increasing temperatures, something the people who come here to the MLK Center’s Beat The Heat cooling center known very well. According to a report by Risky Business (an effort by former NY Mayor Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Paulson and others), during the past 30 years, the typical Texan has experienced an average of 43 days per year of temperatures above 95°F. But by mid-century, that number is likely to reach up to 80 such days, and to reach up to 106 days per year by 2040-2059 — more extreme heat than any state besides Arizona experiences today,” the study says.
- That rising heat will result on more than 2500 additional heat-related deaths in the next 5-25 years, more than 4500 heat-related deaths in the next 25-45 years. For comparison, there will be more heat-related deaths by mid-century than there were automobile fatalities in 2013.
- We can’t just sit on our hands and do nothing about this problem. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is a critical first step in protecting Dallas from the worst impacts of global warming and we must work proactively to achieve the pollution reductions required.
- Not only will the plan help stave off future warming and a more dangerous world for future generations – the Clean Power Plan will deliver real health impacts now. That’s because when we reduce carbon pollution from power plants, we’re also reducing soot, smog, and other harmful pollutants that are responsible for respiratory illness and even premature deaths. EPA estimates that the Clean Power Plan will save as many as 3,600 lives and prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks each year.
- The plan will also help Texas save water. According to an analysis of the draft rule last year, the rule will help Texas‘ power sector cut water consumption by 21 percent, while reducing conventional air pollutants 29 percent by 2029. The water savings are enough water to fill Cowboys Stadium 37 times every year.
- The Clean Power plan could shrink electricity bills by roughly 8 percent per person in 2030 through increased renewable energy, energy efficiency and reduced electricity demand, saving Americans up to $45.8 billion on their home electricity bills (Source: Georgia Institute of Technology).
- I urge our Governor and Attorney General to stop their lawsuits and obstructionism and get to work developing a Texas plan to reduce pollution and expand our investment in clean energy like wind, solar and energy efficiency.
- I come at this issue from a business perspective.
- First, we know global warming is costing us a whole heck of a lot of money. Extreme weather puts trillions of dollars of assets at risk. For example, the historic drought cost Texas farmers at least $8 billion in 2011 alone.
- Next, solving the climate crisis comes with great business opportunity. Texas is already the national leader in wind power. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Texas wind energy provides the state with $3.3 billion every year in societal benefits, including reducing the cost of producing electricity and reducing public health costs by eliminating harmful pollution. That helps reduce the cost of doing business in Texas, which is good news for people like me.
- And with the price of solar power dropping dramatically, electric grid operator ERCOT predicts solar energy will grow almost 4,000 percent in the next 14 years.
- This growth in wind, solar and energy efficiency will attract billions of investment in the state and provide enormous potential for new businesses and job growth. For example, studies show the Clean Power Plan will lead to a direct net job gain of roughly 96,000 (Source: EPI).
- And that’s something the business community understands – 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies have set their own clean energy targets and have saved more than $1 billion a year in the process
- There’s been a lot of hoopla from some climate deniers and some in the business community which I want to correct. First, the Clean Power Plan gives Texas considerable flexibility and we won’t even break a sweat meeting these pollution targets.
- The plan acknowledges that “fossil fuels will continue to be a critical component of America’s energy future. The Clean Power Plan simply makes sure that fossil fuel-fired power plants will operate more cleanly and efficiently, while expanding the capacity for zero- and low-emitting power sources.”
- States can use emissions trading, through which affected power plants may meet their emission standards via emission rate credits or allowances. It is a market-based policy tool to create financial incentive to reduce emissions where the costs of doing so are the lowest and clean energy investment enjoys the highest leverage.
- It’s for all these reasons that dozens of major corporations have endorsed the Clean Power Plan. In July, 21 companies, including Levi’s, Staples, and the Gap, wrote Governor Abbott and urged him to adopt a state implementation plan and to emphasize renewables and energy efficiency in it.
Melissa Ashmore, Interfaith Power and Light & Cathedral of Hope
As people of faith, we look to the scriptures and traditions of our faith for guidance for the choices we make in our lives. For me it is the Scriptures of the Bible and like my colleagues of other faiths, my faith tradition calls me to care for creation.
Genesis 1 says that when God created the heavens and the earth, God saw that everything was “very good.” We learn in Genesis 2 that as humankind has the freedom to make moral choices, and that each of us lives with the responsibility for our personal actions or inactions. With the freedom of God’s gift, the prophet Micah guides us towards moral and responsible lifestyle choices: we are to do justice, love kindness and mercy, and walk humbly with our God [Mic.6:6-8].
Our Response To God
Scripture compel us to act on our faith grounded in wonder, reverence, love, and respect for all of God’s creation. But clearly, God’s creation is groaning under the burden of our choices. We realize more every day that our choices have often come at the sake of people. And that Our choices have threatened the voiceless natural systems that sustain all of life itself.
Our Choices Now
When confronted with environmental responsibility, people of faith now face an additional choice: to live in despair or to live with hope. I believe that we are called to live with hope. We are called to go beyond lifestyle adjustment. We are called to spiritual and lifestyle transformation based on justice and reverence for all of God’s creatures and creation. We are called by Jesus to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. With God’s grace, individuals can transform their lives and their communities to become hopeful, restorative, and just. The Clean Power Plan is a crucial step for Texas and for People of Faith, by allowing Texas to create a plan of its own to reduce carbon pollution.
The Interfaith Power and Light chapters of Fort Worth and Dallas invite people of faith to support the Clean Power Plan as a choice of faith.
Executive Director, Environment Texas
As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.