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EPA Rule Targets Coal-Burning Power Plants

S Bence

Wisconsin will have to cut back it's carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30 percent by 2030, according to the proposed Clean Power Plan released Monday.
Each state can craft its own individualized plan, but the goal is to cut down on the amount of CO2 puffing  out of power plants across the nation.

In 2012, Wisconsin's carbon dioxide emission rate was more than 1,800 pounds per megawatt hour of energy produced. The EPA wants it to scale back to 1,200 pounds by 2030.

The Obama administration says the country has a responsibility to act, in the face of climate change.

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said before her agency put pen to paper, it gathered months worth of input from states, cities and industry.

Vice President of Government Relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, Scott Manley, says the EPA did not write his views and concerns into the plan.

“The biggest concern is that this rule will significantly increase the cost of electricity in Wisconsin," Manley says. "Because we have more than half of our electricity generated from coal, those costs are probably going to be significantly higher here than in many other states and that’s going to put us at a competitive disadvantage."

Manley points to some of Wisconsin’s bigger industries - pulp, paper and foundries.

“Those are very much global marketplaces and when other countries aren’t facing these same costs, it’s very difficult to pass those costs along," he says. "Because you’re competing for price and if your price is higher than paper made in another country or metal castings made in another country, you price yourself out of the market."

Manley foresees some manufacturers abandoning the state – and perhaps the country.

“We’re seeing studies that suggest that in five-state upper Midwest region, that Wisconsin is a part of, this rule could result in over 31,000 lost jobs every year between now and 2030,” Manley says.

While Manley shakes his head, Keith Reopelle of the environmental group Clean Wisconsin calls the EPA proposal modest. He says the plan also gives states and utilities ample time to change.

Credit S Bence
Coal being unloaded in Milwaukee's inner harbor.

“The best way to reduce carbon emissions is to invest in energy efficiency and conservation,” Reopelle says.

Reopelle says alternative models for generating power exist close to home. He points to Iowa, saying it now produces 30 percent of its electricity through wind power. In comparison, Wisconsin stands at two percent.

“There is a great tremendous amount of of potential here in Wisconsin," Reopelle says. "EPA analysis shows that there will be an eight percent reduction of electricity rates over this time period by 2030."

Reopelle says it’s imperative for the country and state to act.

“The big thing is that is would be very irresponsible for us to wait any longer to address what is really the biggest threat to the world that our children are going to inherit from us,” Reopelle says.

In Reopelle’s mind, that threat is climate change.

Diverse opinions will certainly fly toward the EPA. It’s accepting public comment on its plan for 120 days and plans to hold four public hearings.

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