June 2 is going to be a big deal.
Why? Because EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is about to unveil our biggest climate change policy ever.
It didn’t go through Congress because Congress continues to fail us on our most urgent threat to the planet — even though the majority of Americans in every state agree that climate change is happening and we are the main cause and despite the recent news from the National Climate Assessment that climate change is happening now, and the effects are visible in every single state.
Instead, the Obama Administration is acting on climate change through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The President’s Climate Action Plan has a number of policies within it, including energy efficiency for congregations, and this latest rule will limit carbon pollution from our existing power plants.
More on that in a moment, but first, let’s talk about why the EPA needed to step in.
The EPA is readying this new climate rule, which will limit carbon pollution from existing power plants, not because the President grew impatient with Congress. (Though, who could blame him? President Obama’s legacy on global warming is at stake, and replacing the solar panels on the White House roof is only a piece of the puzzle.) The EPA is acting because the Supreme Court ordered them to. When the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide — the most important of the heat-trapping gases that contribute to global warming — is a pollutant that harms human health, the Court directed the EPA to regulate it under the Clean Air Act. So our coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, which emit the largest single source of climate pollution in the country, will need to limit that pollution, not only because of the harm they’re doing to the health of people living around power plants, but because of the harm caused by global warming today and for generations to come.
So what can we expect from this new rule?
It hasn’t been released yet, but the gist of it is this: the rule will require existing power plants to make big reductions in their carbon dioxide pollution. At the same time, it will give states and companies a lot of flexibility in how they limit that pollution. According to the Washington Post, there will likely be some regional carbon trading (using market principles to reduce pollution), and, in the end, emissions from utilities will go down 25 percent. So we can expect big-picture goals with flexibility in how they’re achieved, and state-level implementation plans will make a big difference down the road.
What happens now?
The EPA will need to hear from us. Once the new rule is published, a 60-day public comment period begins, and those comments will come from both sides of the issue — from those who want to see zero action on climate change and from those who think this kind of action is long overdue.
What can we do?
On June 2, Sojourners will look in-depth at the new rule, and we’ll share it with you. Then we’ll ask you to join us in submitting our comments to EPA, showing that we urgently need good, effective action to limit our carbon pollution. When the idea of this rule was announced, I was proud to testify as a Christian about how global warming has impacted me and people I’ve met, and how Jesus calls to look after the poor and the vulnerable — “the least of these.” It’s the poor here and around the world who have polluted the least but who will suffer the most for our climate pollution. It is our responsibility to respond to that suffering and support policies that can help prevent worse.
Want to help? Sign up here to receive an action alert on June 2nd when the EPA rule is released.
Liz Schmitt is the Creation Care Associate at Sojourners.