Wisconsin Governor Walker, Allies Targeting EPA Plan To Cut Carbon Dioxide Emissions
According to a report that aired last Thursday of Wisconsin Public Radio, the Walker administration is spelling out its case against a federal proposal to cut air pollution from coal-burning power plants, and reduce the impact of climate change.
The Obama administration’s nationwide crackdown on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants could force Wisconsin to reduce its pollutants by about one-third by the year 2030.
Susan Hedman, EPA Midwest region administrator, told a WisPolitics.com forum that the climate change plan is being debated as the planet is warming.
Hedman said the proposal, known as the “Clean Power Plan”, would have many other benefits too, such as sparking efforts to boost energy efficiency, help create jobs in renewable energy, and cut other pollutants that can lead to lung ailments.
Walker is already talking about having state Attorney General Brad Schimel file a lawsuit against the EPA, even though a final regulation won’t be issued until mid-summer.
Ellen Nowak, Public Service Commission member and incoming chair, is a Walker appointee and has zeroed in on Wisconsin’s carbon-cutting goal of 34 percent. Walker has now appointed all 3 commissioners Wisconsin Public Service Commission. “Why are we being forced to reach that goal, she asked (rhetorically)? Is the methodology the EPA came up with to reach that goal flawed?” “I think that answer is yes.”
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is supposedly an independent state agency charged with regulating over 1,100 Wisconsin public utilities that provide electric, natural gas, combined water and sewer service to Wisconsin households. Its mission is to ensure that safe, sufficient, and reasonably priced utility services are provided to all of Wisconsin’s customers.
Wisconsin utilities must obtain PSC approval before instituting new rates, issuing stocks or bonds, or undertaking major construction projects such as power plants, water wells and transmission lines. Recent PSC decisions approving 3 major fossil fuel burning utility companies’ rate restructure proposals, which effectively disincentivize household energy conservation and discourage installation of green energy investments (solar panels, others), despite the verbal and written objections of thousands of Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison customers who had attended PSC public hearings last fall.
Keith Reopelle, of the environmental group Clean Wisconsin, said the Clean Power Plan isn’t perfect, but delaying action on climate change would be expensive.
“There’s a huge cost to some of our most important and iconic industries in the state, to the agricultural industry, to the tourism industry,” Reopelle said. “There will be very large, quantifiable costs from climate change and an enormous cost to public health.”
Reopelle also said changes to power plants would only grow more costly, the longer Wisconsin would wait to reduce carbon emissions.
Hedman said some Wisconsin firms could do very well under the proposal.
“Companies that do energy efficiency work, performance contracting like Johnson Controls. If you look at companies like Quad Graphics that are leaders in combined heat and power projects,” Hedman said.
EPA officials said they’ve received more than 4 million comments on the climate change plan.