By Brenda Flanagan
The EPA rules mostly target the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants, requiring 30 percent cuts in carbon emissions by 2030. The goal: to fight climate change and its devastating impact — particularly on coastal states like New Jersey where ocean levels are rising and storms like Sandy devastated homes and lives.
“New Jersey — with a 130 miles of shoreline — is under water. We just cannot stand for that. We have to start making changes now,” said Sen. Bob Smith.
“The idea of setting higher standards to cut pollution at our power plants is not new. It’s just time for Washington to catch up with the rest of the country,” said President Barak Obama.
About 40 percent of America’s carbon dioxide pollution comes from power plants and New Jersey’s still got three coal-fired plants, in Mercer, Hudson and Gloucester counties. But PSE&G has worked to clean and upgrade those facilities. And Jersey set more stringent emission requirements several years ago — and so the Garden State’s in a much better position to meet the EPA guidelines.
“New Jersey’s done a lot to reduce those pollutants, but other states around us haven’t. So it’ll actually make it easier for people in New Jersey to breathe as well,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel.
In fact, “New Jersey’s in good shape,” says the DEP’s Larry Ragonese. “We already meet and/or exceed the EPA’s requirements for the next couple of decades. We have been eliminating coal plants —
adding cleaner-burning natural gas to replace them.” He says the Christie administration supports the proposed new rules — as does New Jersey’s Business and Industry Association.
“New Jersey does import up to 30 percent of its power every day, but because our power plants are already meeting many of these reductions, it will make them more competitive,” said NJBIA Vice President Sara Bluhm.
But the air remains thick with politics. All but one of New Jersey’s Republican congressmen have voted to block the EPA’s proposed rules. And advocates like the Sierra Club question the governor’s commitment to real change.
“As long as Gov. Christie is holding New Jersey’s clean energy program hostage to his national ambitions — New Jersey has the tools — but will those tools actually be used?” Tittel asked.
Today the governor had no desire to discuss it.
“I’m not making any statements today,” he said.
Industry spokesmen in coal-producing states like Kentucky claim the new rules will cost jobs and stifle U.S. manufacturing. They plan to fight back — in the Congress and in the courts.