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Clean Power for Clean Air

By Sharon Hadden

 As a part of the President's Climate Action Plan, the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  recently announced details of the Clean Power Plan; a historic step that will take real action on climate change. At a time when the science is showing that climate change is already posing risks to our health and the economy, a plan with such measurable outcomes is welcome. Finalized in August, the plan implements guidelines to cut carbon pollution from power plants. Implications for North Texas  are significant and involve the opportunity to exit the Clean Air Quality non-attainment status that has plagued North Texas for the last decade; reduce the incidence of environmental health issues and result in higher utilization of the State’s  abundant renewable energy resources.

 According to the United Nations, climate change is one of the greatest environmental challenges in the world today, with greenhouse gases from carbon pollution causing changes in weather, ecosystems and habitats. The effects of climate change vary by region. Texas falls into the Great Plains region, which spans from Canada to Mexico. In the last 30 years, year-round temperatures have steadily increased, and current projections suggest that Texas and the southern area of the Great Plains will continue to be hotter and more dry in the next century. It is estimated that climate and weather related disasters in 2012 cost the American economy $100 billion.

 The EPA states that fossil fuel-fired power plants are the largest source of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, accounting for 31 percent of U.S. total greenhouse gas emissions. The Clean Power Plan is expected to cut those emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels and also cut pollution that leads to soot and smog by over 25 percent in coming years.

John Spicer, co-owner of Texas based, Breeze Energy, which is a 100 percent wind energy company says, “It effectively eliminates new coal power plants. The fossil fueled power plants that can be built will be natural gas fired plants, which emit roughly 50 percent less CO2 than a coal plant does. The current discussion surrounding the Clean Power Plan  is great because it will make more people aware of the situation.”

 Texas has experienced rapid growth in the last 50 years, increasing its vulnerability to climate change and the demand for water. Should temperatures continue to rise, encouraging droughts and other heat events, the region’s agriculture may suffer from heat destruction and reduction of water and land resources. In addition to impacts on water, agriculture and ecosystems, people living in rural areas of Texas and the Great Plains may have difficulty coping with water shortages, reduced quality of rangelands and decreased crop reliability, leading to significant cultural shifts

 The Clean Power Plan is a momentous and important step toward reducing carbon pollution that and positions the U.S. and North Texas to lead on climate action and save billions of dollars every year. Because Texas uses more electricity any other state, there is much more to gain in terms of better air quality and the use diverse clean energy sources.

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