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  • Jackson Morris, Natural Resources Defense Council

Pennsylvanians Overwhelmingly Want To Cut Carbon Emissions From Existing Power Plants, Promote Clean

The idea of a state-crafted plan to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants is wildly popular among Pennsylvanians. So, too, is clean energy--energy efficiency along with pollution-free sources such as wind and solar power. That's the big news out in a bipartisan poll released today. And it's news many grandstanding state and national decision-makers should listen to as they promote legislation that would make it more difficult to comply with the EPA's Clean Power Plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants or would nullify it entirely. While some think they'll score points with constituents by opposing the CPP, and by opposing the creation of state carbon-cutting plans that are an integral part of it, an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanians--83 percent--say our state should craft an effective, clean-energy-focused plan to meet the new standards. (The survey was conducted by the bipartisan polling team of Public Opinion Strategies and Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.)

Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support using clean energy, like the 105 solar panels being installed at Littlestown Veterinary Hospital in Littlestown, to help the cut dangerous carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. (Photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

My fellow Pennsylvanians are smart people and they know that the benefits of getting on board with the Clean Power Plan abound: More than six in 10 say clean energy sources such as wind and solar power will create jobs here in Pennsylvania. And a plurality--almost 50 percent--says using these sources will cut energy costs, rather than raise them. (Its important to note that one of the best ways for individual states, Pennsylvania included, to maximize these benefits is through a so-called "mass-based," regional approach like the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which you can read more about here. It's proven to substantially cut power-plant pollution while bringing impressive job and economic growth to the nine-state Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region. Not only that, compliance costs using a regional approach would be 30 percent lower than a single-state approach, according to a recent analysis by our regional electric grid operator, PJM. Pennsylvania is uniquely positioned to play a key role in these regional PJM compliance discussions with neighboring states).

The benefits of the CPP don't stop with new jobs and lower energy costs, either. Complying with the EPA's plan can save the lives of as many as 3,300 Pennsylvanians between 2020 and 2030 and prevent 710 hospitalizations, by cutting down on dangerous co-pollutants--sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter--that spew out of power-plant smokestacks along with the carbon dioxide. Indeed, the health impacts of power-plant pollution and the global warming it fuels should be of significant concern to us Keystone Staters, as a new fact sheet NRDC released yesterday, about climate change's impact on Pennsylvanians' health, demonstrates. From Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, from Erie to Chester, we are vulnerable to climate-related health threats from worsening air quality, extreme heat, dangerous storms and flooding, and increasing exposures to serious, insect-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

Some politicians, including an unfortunate number of attention-seekers here in our state, seem to think campaigning against the CPP and clean energy in general will curry favor for them with voters. But this new poll shows that creating a state plan to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants, even in this coal-heavy state, can burnish an elected official's image and would reflect well on our new governor, Tom Wolf. Indeed, almost half of poll respondents remarked that creating a state plan would make them view Governor Wolf more favorably. (Only seven percent would view him less favorably if he created a CPP compliance plan.)

The poll also shows how much we want clean power here in Pennsylvania: very much, indeed. Ninety-three percent support expanding utility programs to help consumers improve their homes' energy efficiency and save money on their electric bills, and 88 percent endorsed increasing the use of wind and solar power here in our state.

So what's the take-away here? It's simple: Pennsylvanians strongly support the CPP and think well of elected officials who will use clean energy to cut power plant pollution and realize the CPP's potential. Our state and national leadership would do well to take note.

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