Deborah Courson Smith Big Sky Connection
HELENA – In the wake of the Environmental Protection Agency’s June 2 proposal to reduce carbon pollution emitted by coal-fired power plants, Jeff Fox, the Montana Policy Manager at Renewable Northwest, thinks Montana’s wind power resources may have just become much more valuable.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on the other hand, says the rule will mean massive job losses, especially in coal states like Montana. But Fox says with Washington state already moving to reject coal-fired electricity from Montana, it’s time to “rev up” the renewable sector and create jobs.
“By smartly marketing our wind power as a replacement for coal power, we can see the new opportunities to replace the economic activity we are already likely to lose,” Fox said.
Montana would have to cut state emissions by 21 percent, which could be done through energy efficiency, requiring pollution-control equipment for plants and adding more renewable energy to the grid. Nationally, the EPA’s goal with the proposed rule marks a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from power plants by 2030.
Mary DuVernay is a mother of two young children in Helena. She says while she appreciates the economic concerns, health is her top issue. The EPA has noted climate change means more smog, more forest fire-related smoke, longer allergy seasons, and more cases of asthma – especially in children.
“Every day becomes more and more urgent that we do something to begin to reverse our use of carbon and the impact it will have, and is already having, on our planet,” DuVernay said.
The EPA estimates that 150,000 asthma attacks in children and 6,600 premature deaths will be prevented if the rule takes effect “as is.” The agency is taking public comments on the proposal for the next four months. Visit epa.gov to read the EPA proposal and related fact sheets.