'Clean Power Plan' goals good; delay better for Nebraska

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

President Obama’s Clean Air Plan was estimated to prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths a year and 90,000 asthma attacks in children, according to the American Lung Association.

Public health advocates said it would be especially beneficial to poorer populations in major cities, living near coal-fired power plants.

When the plan was finalized in 2015, more than 8 million people sent comments in support of the plan, a federal record.

Tuesday, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposed rule Tuesday that would lead to repeal of limitations on greenhouse gas emissions under the Obama plan.

Citing a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision directing the EPA to regulate carbon as an air pollutant if emissions put public health at risk, environmental groups and some states are expected to mount a legal challenge to Pruitt’s move.

As a public power state heavily invested in low-sulphur coal — dug from the ground in Wyoming and hauled by rail to facilities like the Gerald Gentleman Station near Sutherland — Nebraska has been slow to shift to alternative energy such as wind and solar.

We are making strides, however, and are even innovators through projects like one at the Shelton Station, where a coal-fired turbine has been converted to use hydrogen produced as a by-product of a private company’s production of carbon black from natural gas.

Wind turbines have sprouted in northeastern portions of Nebraska, although we’re far behind neighboring states like Iowa and Kansas, and only a tiny fraction of our power comes from solar energy, although there are a few installations around the state, including a relatively large one being installed in Kearney.

Economics remain the main driver for energy change in Nebraska, of course, largely due to the plummeting price of natural gas thanks to fracking technology, and the cost of retiring one of the state’s two nuclear plants.

The Nebraska Farm Bureau praised Pruitt’s move, saying the Clean Air Plan is a “feel-good regulation” that “doesn’t solve the issue of global greenhouse gas emissions.”

While the U.S. has reduced emissions by 13 percent since 2005, China’s economic growth has come at the cost of increasing emissions by nearly 70 percent.

“In short, this rule effectively hamstrings our economy and drives up costs on farm and ranch families and other energy users while producing minimal measurable impact on world temperatures and climate,” said Steve Nelson, Nebraska Farm Bureau president.

Gov. Pete Ricketts called the Clean Air Plan a “job-killing regulation” that amounted to “federal red tape” that “was completely unnecessary for our state because Nebraskans already successfully work to maintain clean air and clean water.

“Additionally,” Ricketts said, “it would have resulted in power rate increases that would have burdened Nebraska family budgets and Main Street job creators.”

Conservation of land, water and air is a way of life for those of us who grew up enjoying Nebraska’s clear skies, clean water and open spaces.

Given the chance, free of federal mandates, we’ll do far more than our part to see that they stay that way.

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