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States Don't Need to Wait for Ruling on Clean Power Plan

The National Wildlife Federation says states don't need to wait for the courts to rule on the Clean Power Plan, but could be making changes now to benefit the environment. (Powder River Basin Resource Council)
The National Wildlife Federation says states don't need to wait for the courts to rule on the Clean Power Plan, but could be making changes now to benefit the environment. (Powder River Basin Resource Council)
February 12, 2016

BALTIMORE - While the nation waits to see if the Clean Power Plan will survive court challenges, wildlife advocates say there's no reason for states not to start complying with what it's trying to do.

The U.S. Supreme Court put the brakes on the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to cut carbon emissions, so states are, at least temporarily, spared from having to spell out how they'll do that. Jim Murphy, senior counsel at the National Wildlife Federation, said that doing it anyway is crucial for air, water and animal species. He said Maryland and other states in the region already are moving away from coal-based energy.

"Everything states do to reduce their emissions right now, and every step they take, will be helpful," he said, "regardless of what happens in the legal process."

The coal industry applauded the Supreme Court's stay, saying it recognizes that there are significant legal issues with the EPA's plan. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said he's confident the courts will uphold the Clean Power Plan.

Without a move away from carbon-based fuels, Murphy said, wildlife won't be as plentiful or as diverse in the future as it is today.

"We're talking about extinction rates of about a third to half of all species by the end of this century," he said. "We're seeing habitat shifts that a lot of species can't keep up with. We're seeing wildfires, droughts, floods. It puts a lot of stress on species."

Murphy said East and West Coast states already have started to recognize the environmental threats and are embracing renewable energy, along with the mid-Atlantic region and the states of Colorado, Iowa and Minnesota.

Murphy is convinced, one way or another, that the coal industry is a thing of the past.

"Coal is going away, whether the Clean Power Plan comes into place or not. It's an economic reality," he said. "Those states would be very wise to start to take advantage of the opportunities in renewables."

Murphy called the EPA's effort an evolutionary plan, not a revolutionary one, and pointed out that it allows each state to decide how to meet its pollution clean-up goals.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD