The Electrical Worker online
August 2014

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EPA Plan: All Pain, No Gain

Climate change is a genuine crisis that must be addressed, but the Environmental Protection Agency's recently proposed Clean Power Plan is the wrong approach — for both the environment and the U.S. economy.

The EPA's rule — issued earlier this summer — will kill more than 150,000 jobs across the United States, while having a minimal effect on global greenhouse emissions.

The rule will prematurely close dozens of major power plants in communities throughout the country, devastating local economies in largely rural regions that depend on the energy sector for jobs and growth.

By the agency's own estimates, this will shutter more than 40 gigawatts of coal-generating power by 2020 — on top of the 50 gigawatts scheduled to be lost by 2017 due to the Mercury and Air Toxics rule put into effect earlier. This puts not only jobs, but the whole electrical grid at risk.

Despite the growth of renewables like solar and wind, experts predict that it will take decades for alternative energy sources — which make up less than 13 percent of the U.S.'s net electricity generation — to adequately replace coal, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says.

For years, the IBEW has urged Congress to pass a national energy policy that addresses climate change without putting the reliability of our power grid at risk.

These regulations do the exact opposite. They threaten our ability to keep the power on during extreme weather, from winter's polar vortex to summer heat waves.

The U.S.'s share of global carbon emissions has been on steady decline for the last decade as the implementation of technology to capture carbon emissions, and the increased use of natural gas, solar and wind continue to grow. But unless we can bring developing nations like China and India — which are dramatically increasing their share of carbon emissions — to the table, any isolated U.S. effort to cut down on CO2 will be for naught.

That means the EPA's plan amounts to all pain and no gain. And it's working families and energy consumers who will feel the brunt of it, in the form of lost jobs, higher electricity prices and much greater risk of blackouts.

For years, we have been right about our estimates about how coal-fired plant shutdowns would negatively impact the grid and jobs — in contrast to the overly-optimistic predictions made by the EPA.

We, along with other unions representing energy workers, need to have our voice heard. The IBEW stands ready to work with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, along with leaders of the utility industry, to craft a true bipartisan energy plan to grow our economy, renovate our aged energy infrastructure and set a realistic plan for cleaner air and a healthy environment.


Also: Chilia: What Money Can't Buy Read Chilia's Column

Edwin D. Hill

Edwin D. Hill
International President