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Virginia's "Green" Groups Respond to New EPA Pollution Limits

PHOTO: Environmental groups in Virginia have been calling for strict rules on carbon emissions. Photo credit: vasierraclub.org
PHOTO: Environmental groups in Virginia have been calling for strict rules on carbon emissions. Photo credit: vasierraclub.org
September 24, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. - New rules from the Obama Administration to limit carbon pollution from new power plants won't have much of an immediate effect in Virginia. The director of the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter, Glen Besa, called the restrictions a good first step, but pointed out that they don't apply to existing coal-fired plants, which are the biggest contributors to global warming, and pose the biggest pollution threat in Virginia.

"Cities like Virginia Beach and Norfolk are already bearing a tremendous burden with regard to the cost of sea-level rise, with roads being flooded and homes being flooded," he said of the effects of climate change.

In anticipation of the new rules, the state's largest utility, Virginia Dominion Power, recently released a plan for the future that includes shutting down some coal-fired plants, and boosting the development of more large-scale renewable energy sources, like wind power.

Besa said that there are still incredible hurdles for the Obama Administration to jump in order to reduce planet-warming emissions.

"We need to make sure the Congress does not interfere with the EPA's abilities to do this, and then we need to see the EPA move forward with regulation of carbon pollution from existing fossil fuel power plants, plants that burn coal and gas," he said.

A report released last month by the Natural Resources Defense Council found Virginia could see the addition of 5000 jobs by 2020 through efforts to cut carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency.

Former EPA Administrator Carol Browner said it's becoming increasingly clear the benefits of addressing climate change outweigh the costs.

"Power plants account for about 40% of the carbon pollution in the united States, so putting in place sensible, cost-effective requirements to reduce that pollution is very, very important to the health of our communities, the health of our environment and the health of our children."

She adds the new rules build on build on what the EPA has already done in terms of regulating pollution from cars and trucks. See the agency's proposed rules online at EPA.gov.

Alison Burns, Public News Service - VA