Carbon standard is a major victory

  • Published on March 28th, 2012

smokestack by zen

Anyone who wants to create a cleaner, healthier, and more stable environment for their children has a reason to celebrate today. The Environmental Protection Agency has issued the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new power plants.  This is a major public health and environmental breakthrough, and every smart politician should trumpet it. Why? Because it is good news—and good politics.  It will help deliver a modern power fleet, a wave of technological innovation, and a strong response to a looming health threat.

Carbon pollution causes climate change, which causes temperatures to rise. In addition to deadly heat waves, this means more smog in the air, triggering asthma attacks, heart attacks and other serious illnesses. The American Thoracic Society—the professional association for lung doctors—says climate change is particularly dangerous for children and seniors, because they are most vulnerable to respiratory conditions.

Climate change also fuels extreme weather events like the droughts, floods, and violent storms that have been pummeling American towns and cities with greater frequency. In 2011, America had 14 weather disasters that created more than $1 billion in damages each—an all-time record.

The standards announced today will help reduce these threats to our health and our communities. Power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in America, and now finally, energy companies can’t build new power plants that dump unlimited amounts of carbon into the air.  But no good deed goes unpunished in an election year.

The fossil fuel industry is poised to turn this into a political football. They view it as the beginning of the end of their free pass on climate change pollution, and they will unleash holy hell on this new standard.  Those of us who support a cleaner, safer future must stand our ground. More than 70 percent of voters support new standards for carbon pollution from power plants, according to a poll released last week by the American Lung Association. We have to make our support known.

A clean air standard that helps protect public health and stabilize the climate deserves to be celebrated. No amount of industry-funded attack ads should make our leaders back down. We don’t apologize for making our kids do their homework. We don’t apologize for saving for their college fund. Why should we apologize for trying to make the air cleaner for them?

There is no need to make excuses for holding polluters accountable. Instead, climate champions should go on the offense. NRDC Action Fund researched recent campaigns and found that whoever frames the debate on clean energy wins. Clean energy supporters have to deliver their message before fossil fuel interests take to the airwaves.

Lawmakers should do the same with the new carbon standard. This is a major step forward for public health and safety. It is a straightforward victory. Our elected officials should act like it.

Tell Your Friends about This Victory
NRDC Action Fund and other climate champions will work hard to spread the word about the carbon standard, but we need allies to help us, especially since the fossil fuel industry has so much money to spend on trashing it.

You can start by telling the EPA that you support this new safeguard. The agency is accepting public comments right now, and you can submit yours by clicking here.

We need voters to share this news with their friends and social networks. And what is true for candidates is true for citizens as well: we have to own this issue first.

Don’t wait for it to come up in conversation, and don’t wait to defend it after someone else makes faulty claims. Get things rolling by saying: “The EPA is getting serious about cleaning up carbon pollution. Polluters can’t stop progress after all.” Or: “Did you hear what happened this week? Science finally triumphed over denial.”

We all want to protect our children from pollution and climate change. It’s time to be brazen in our support of the tools that will help us achieve those goals.

Heather is the day-to-day director of the NRDC Action Fund where she guides the organization’s strategies to pass priority legislation. 

(Originally appeared at The Markup, the blog of the National Resources Defense Counsel’s  Action Fund. Smokestack image AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by zen)

About the Author

Heather Taylor-Miesle is the Director of the NRDC Action Fund. With more than 13 years of experience in federal politics as a public interest lobbyist, political consultant and on Capitol Hill, she has expertise in federal energy, environmental health, and appropriations issues. Prior to becoming director of the NRDC Action Fund, Ms. Taylor-Miesle was the associate legislative director at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the world’s premier environmental organizations. Prior to her position at the NRDC, Ms. Taylor-Miesle worked on Capitol Hill, first as an aide to now Governor Ted Strickland (D-OH) and then as a senior staff member for current Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis (D-CA). Follow Heather and NRDC's Action Fund on Facebook (