Poor Would Benefit Most From Reducing Air Pollution, NRDC Report Says
Cutting greenhouse-gas emissions will mean cheaper electricity, better health -- but critics argue fiercely against initiative
The Obama administration’s plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions from power plants will also lower electric bills for customers, particularly low- and fixed-income households, as well as provide health benefits to those residents, according to a new study.
The Natural Resources Defense Council report offers a defense of the so-called Clean Power Plan, a proposal that has come under intense criticism from many in Congress and the Christie administration, which called the plan fundamentally flawed in athis past December.
Proposed by the EPA in June 2014, the plan virtually everyone agrees could lead to the retirement of many coal-fired power plants -- a prospect critics say would hurt the economy, shed thousands of jobs, and lead to higher costs for consumers on their electric bills.
The plan aims to cut greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030. According to the EPA, the initiative will cut electric bills by 8 percent by 2030. The NRDC study claims it will create as many as 274,00 jobs in energy-efficiency projects, which aim to reduce consumption by businesses and residents.
The NRDCsuggests that low-income and seniors might benefit the most from the Obama proposal.
“The impacts of pollution often hit the poor the hardest,’’ the report said. “However the shift to clean energy offers the chance to prevent the worst impact of climate change, while lessening the toll that dirty fossil fuels are currently wreaking on some of the most vulnerable communities.’’
Rev. Gerald Durley, pastor emeritus of Providence Missionary Church in Atlanta, who spoke on a teleconference call with reporters about the report, agreed. “Climate change is a civil rights issue that all of us should become involved in,’’ he said.According to the report, the average American household spends about 3 percent of its household income on electricity bills, compared to low-income families, who spend about 8 percent of their income -- and even more when prices spike.
Katharine McCormick, Midwest advocate for NRDC and the chief author of the report, said the switch to cleaner energy technologies will “keep the lights on,’’ trying to rebut an argument made by critics that it would hurt the reliability of the power grid because of the intermittent nature of solar and wind power, two of the main sources of renewable energy.
The report also noted that PJM Interconnection, the operator of the nation’s largest power grid (including New Jersey), found that generating 30 percent of the electricity in its region from renewable energy sources could save consumers up to 30 percent on their bills.
Those arguments resonate in New Jersey, where some are pushing for more aggressive targets to rely on renewable energy to meet the state’s electricity needs, a goal many businesses fear will increase costs when they already are among the highest in the nation.
The state Department of Environmental Protection basically sided with business interests in protesting the proposed rule to the EPA, saying it would burden residents with unjustifiable increases in electricity costs. In the letter to EPA, DEP Commissioner Bob Martin argued that the state already has taken significant steps to reduce emissions contributing to climate change.
In New Jersey, however, a growing number of residents believe global climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed.
A recent poll by Yale University shows that 68 percent of adults in New Jersey believe global warming is happening -- slightly more than the 63 percent of Americans surveyed in the study who shared the same opinion.
Environmentalists support the Obama proposal -- with some mixed feelings. “It’s a modest rule,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “It’s the best we can get.’’