Editorials

Clean Power Plan will slice pollution, boost renewable energy

The federal Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, such as this one in New Hampshire, which will protect the health of Americans and promote more use of renewable energy.
The federal Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants, such as this one in New Hampshire, which will protect the health of Americans and promote more use of renewable energy. The Associated Press

The new federal Clean Power Plan has the attention of some top Kansas and Missouri lawmakers. They hate it.

That’s not surprising. Elected officials often don’t like being told what to do by the Environmental Protection Agency and its frequently criticized “bureaucrats.”

And President Barack Obama is strongly promoting the plan to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, setting off even more complaints about Washington ordering states around.

Citizens, though, have a different and more positive feeling about the plan. They love it in Missouri, for instance. A poll earlier this year found that 62 percent of respondents favored the stronger limits on carbon pollution created by power plants fueled by coal.

People understand that cleaner air benefits them in the long run, especially in reducing risks to the health of children and the elderly.

The regulations make good sense in another way. They are aimed at boosting the nation’s investments in cleaner-burning, renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, while slicing the use of dirty coal.

Kansas and Missouri are smack dab in the middle of this battle. Both heavily use coal to provide electricity. And the attorneys general in both states have joined a lawsuit aimed at delaying the EPA rules from taking effect.

Earlier this month, Chris Koster of Missouri said his state would add its voice to about 20 others involved in the legal action. Koster, a Democrat, at least got it right when he praised the intention of the law to provide “cleaner energy production.” Still, he contended, Missouri’s utilities would have problems meeting deadlines set in the plan, using their contention that “complying with EPA’s deadline would cost the state more than $6 billion.”

These are the kinds of sky-high cost estimates critics have used for decades every time a new anti-pollution rule comes along. Quite often, those alarming predictions don’t prove true at all, and they also ignore how much money is saved through lower health care bills, for instance.

In Kansas, a couple of state legislators recently lambasted the Clean Power Plan and contended that it had forced Westar Energy to retire a few of its older plants.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, said, “This decision was forced up on Westar as a direct result of regulations that killed their ability to retrofit and upgrade existing plants.”

Unfortunately for Merrick and another critic, GOP Rep. Dennis Hedke of Wichita, Westar officials themselves said the units being mothballed had long outlived their usefulness.

Naturally, facts won’t stand in the way of opponents who contend that the Clean Power Plan will be responsible for bad things to happen in the future.

Koster’s reliance on the utilities’ overheated prediction on expenses, perhaps part of a desire to appeal to conservatives in his campaign for Missouri governor, is just the kind of hyperbole the American people have come to expect whenever a pro-environment law is put on the books. Same goes for Merrick’s misinformed rhetoric on the Westar situation.

The legal case filed by the states will work its way through the courts in the coming months. It could have the intended consequence of putting off pollution-cutting deadlines set in the law. That could lead to some good political theater created by state officials.

However, it’s encouraging to realize that the Clean Power Plan, like many other positive environmental rules established in the past, eventually will benefit Kansas, Missouri and the rest of America.

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