By Emmaline Jurgena
The Catholic Messenger
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a plan to cut carbon pollution in the United States by curbing carbon emissions produced by power plants. The proposal is strongly supported by Iowa Interfaith Power and Light (IIPL), a faith-based environmental organization.
IIPL also released a statement signed by 97 Iowa faith leaders, including Bishop Martin Amos, which called climate change a “moral issue,” and expressed support for the proposed EPA rules.
On June 2, the EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan, under President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which would limit carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent and cut pollution that leads to soot and smog by more than 25 percent by 2030. Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of the country’s total carbon pollution, making them a primary concern, IIPL says. The June proposal applies to existing power plants, although a similar plan for future power plants is also underway. An opportunity to register public comment continues through Oct. 16 of this year. Directions on how to comment are posted on the EPA website, www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule.
Finalization of the proposal is expected by June 2015. States will have one year following finalization to submit their own implementation proposals.
IIPL began advocating for limits on carbon emissions approximately two years ago, publicizing the issue and encouraging public interest in the forthcoming EPA proposal. Because carbon pollution is a primary driver of climate change, limiting carbon emissions from power plants is critical, explained the Rev. Susan Guy, IIPL executive director. “If we don’t address carbon emissions from power plants, we will never win,” she said.
Rev. Guy said IIPL concentrates efforts on the state and regional level, focusing on grassroots mobilization and the involvement of faith leaders outside of IIPL.
“We are trying to engage other faith leaders to step out and have their voices heard,” Rev. Guy said, citing examples such as an editorial on climate change written by Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese.
Faith principles are intertwined with environmental causes, according to Rev. Guy. “There are two things that I believe all major religions share: a calling to care for creation and a calling to care for our neighbors,” she said. Those who are most vulnerable are the poor. Many power plants, for example, are located in low-income or rural areas where it is difficult for residents to move elsewhere, Rev. Guy pointed out.
IIPL is holding public hearings, modeled after the official EPA hearings, which will provide an opportunity for Iowans to voice their opinions. The hearings will be recorded, transcribed and sent to the EPA. Rev. Guy will attend an official hearing in Washington, D.C., to present on behalf of the IIPL.
A spokesperson for Alliant Energy, which services parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, communicated the company’s support for carbon limits and its plan to consider future carbon requirements. At present, the spokesperson wrote, Alliant is in a good position to execute future compliance including “plant upgrades, retirements, renewable, additional natural gas and energy efficiency.” Alliant does anticipate that the rule changes will impact customer costs as investments are made to comply with regulations. The company is evaluating the EPA rules to determine what changes may have to be made, and promises to advocate on behalf of customers to “assure the final requirements are fair and maintain reliable and cost-effective power.” According to a MidAmerican Energy spokesperson, which also services parts of Iowa, the company is assessing the proposed EPA rules to determine its impact on customers.
Rev. Guy is optimistic about Iowa’s ability to meet the proposed EPA standards, explaining that the state’s budding wind and solar energy projects will make it easier to adapt.
“There are other states that are going to have a harder time meeting the rules than Iowa…it’s exciting to be in a position to say ‘we’re going to be able to do this, look at what we’ve already been doing’,” she said.