Labor, Environmental Leaders React to Administration’s Pragmatic Steps to Limit Carbon Emissions

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, one of the cornerstone initiatives of the president’s Climate Action Plan.

June 2, 2014

BlueGreen Alliance leaders urge EPA to strive for flexibility, support for workers

WASHINGTON, DC (June 2, 2014) – Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. As one of the cornerstone initiatives of the president’s Climate Action Plan, this effort has the potential to enhance national efforts to spur growth of cleaner energy sources and energy efficiency, maintain and create good jobs, and if implemented properly, it should support the administration’s commitment to ensuring America’s infrastructure is prepared for the impacts of climate change.

“Today, President Obama has taken steps to address climate change at a time when it has never been more important. The president and EPA have crafted a proposal that is a starting point for even more important work yet to come,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW) and Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance.

Since the president unveiled last June his intention to introduce the existing source standard, the EPA and key stakeholders have been engaged in efforts that will allow each state, or groups of states, to craft compliance mechanisms that are best suited for their local and regional economies; that will protect existing jobs while reducing emissions; and that will create opportunities to grow new jobs, encourage investment, and jumpstart new technologies.

“Climate disruption is the greatest challenge facing our generation,” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director and Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Today, the president made good on his promise to American families that his administration would tackle the climate crisis, and clean up and modernize the way we power our country.”

“This action by the Obama administration is a starting point in a much-needed effort to address both climate change and the need to keep and create good jobs in our communities. Because we have a U.S. Senate that doesn’t function, many opportunities for positive change in our nation, whether in restoring workers’ rights or supporting cleaner energy initiatives, have been lost. As we build a movement of progressive activists who are committed to real change on these and other critical issues, we appreciate the President’s action to limit carbon pollution while encouraging more efficient energy sources,” said Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen.

BlueGreen Alliance partners support moving forward with the proposed rule and the possibility it holds to mitigate the impacts of climate change, to open doors of economic opportunity, and to better protect and improve public health. They also urged EPA—and the administration broadly—to consider how working families have already been affected by America’s energy transition, and how they will be impacted in the future, during and after the implementation of the rule.

“America’s workers must come out ahead and the electric grid must be strengthened,” said D. Michael Langford, National President of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA). “The steps we take today and over the next few months must ensure that workers and communities are able to navigate this transition as smoothly as possible and the infrastructure is put in place to ensure reliability of the grid. That means investing in infrastructure, minimizing disruption and that affected workers and their communities receive direct support through wages, benefits, training and education.”

While labor and environmental leaders commented on moving forward with the proposed standard, they called for a final standard that responsibly reduces carbon pollution from key sources, upgrades infrastructure, and expands clean energy and energy-efficient technologies—all while creating and maintaining middle-class jobs and helping to revitalize the nation’s manufacturing sector.

“It’s time to apply new and innovative solutions to the challenge of climate change—today’s power sources must be a part of that response,” said Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s the logical next step and, as the evidence shows, this can be one of the most impactful ways to make America’s energy supply sustainable over the long-term.”

“Proposed existing source standards can be written and implemented effectively, so long as they strive for maximum flexibility while also continuing to meet high standards of power reliability, foster economic stability and meet our environmental responsibilities,” said William P. Hite, General President of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA).

The final standard regulating emissions from existing power sources is expected to be completed one year from now, in June 2015.

“President Obama is showing strong leadership in addressing climate change to protect our families and communities,” said Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Over our history, we have seen leaders make other decisions in the midst of difficult times—from the implementation of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts to efforts to strengthen the rights of working people at the beginning of the labor movement—that today are making a tremendous difference in our lives. This will have a similar lasting impact.”

“We strongly support the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants. Nearly 7 million children suffer from asthma, and every day, 36,000 children miss school due to asthma. A cleaner environment will provide a healthier life for today¹s children and families and for generations to come,” said Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers.

Throughout the input and implementation processes, states will have the opportunity to take the lead on individualizing a plan that accounts for their economic strengths and weaknesses and that works best to meet EPA’s benchmarks.

“Extreme weather such as heat waves and droughts are costing humans and wildlife more than ever,” said Jim Lyon Vice President for Conservation Policy at the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). “We’re at a point where we must produce our energy in cleaner and more efficient ways to reduce U.S. carbon emissions over the next several decades. Making America’s power generation more efficient can create new jobs and bring us closer to realizing the vision of a cleaner environment and a more competitive economy.”

“We applaud the EPA for delivering on President Obama’s promise to take steps to address climate change and help move us towards a brighter future,” said Dr. Kathleen Rest, Executive Director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “We’re confident that states can implement these standards and have a positive impact on communities, working families, and the environment for a long time to come.”

“This a significant step forward—one that will help fight climate change; spur our economy to innovate and move to cleaner, renewable sources of energy; and help the American economy become more energy efficient in the years to come,” said David Foster, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “We support EPA’s authority to limit emissions from power plants, and look forward to working with them and states as this standard moves toward finalization and implementation.