Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, April 2016

Supreme Court Blocks Clean Energy Plan

As reported in the New York Times, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan took a major blow in February when the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the administration’s effort to combat global warming by regulating emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The New York Times explained, “The challenged regulation, which was issued last summer by the Environmental Protection Agency, requires states to make major cuts to greenhouse gas pollution created by electric power plants, the nation’s largest source of such emissions. The plan could transform the nation’s electricity system, cutting emissions from existing power plants by a third by 2030, from a 2005 baseline, by closing hundreds of heavily polluting coal-fired plants and increasing production of wind and solar power.”

Dr. Robert Gould, President of the San Francisco-Bay Area Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and Associate Adjunct Professor with the UCSF Program on Reproductive Health and the Environment (PRHE), is working for PSR at the local and national levels to deal with opposition and overcome barriers to moving forward.  Dr. Gould explained, “The Clean Power Plan is a national movement—it would provide a plan and context for all states to move along to address climate change.  Here in California we are moving along with legislative efforts and mandates, for example AB 32, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, despite the recent court decision.” (Photo:  Dr. Gould and Dr. Barbara Sattler, Association of Nurses for a Healthy Environment (ANHE), at a rally in Oakland February 7, 2015).

A key strategy for raising awareness of the need to take action on climate change is to make the connection between clean energy and health.  “PSR’s role,” said Dr. Gould, “is to articulate the health voice.”

According to a recent statement by PSR, “Some states will ‘vigorously defend’ the CPP.  For example, shortly after the Supreme Court decision, the states of New York, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, the District of Columbia, the cities of New York, Boulder, Chicago, Philadelphia and South Miami and Broward County, Florida, issued the following statement:
“We are confident that once the courts have fully reviewed the merits of the Clean Power Plan, it will be upheld as lawful under the Clean Air Act.  Our coalition of states and local governments will continue to vigorously defend the Clean Power Plan — which is critical to ensuring that necessary progress is made in confronting climate change.”

Shortly after that, 17 state governors signed onto the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future, pledging to promote clean energy as good for their economies.  The Accord doesn’t even mention climate change, but commits the governors to moving forward on renewable energy and energy efficiency.  Signatories include the Republican governors of Iowa, Michigan, Massachusetts and Nevada.  This strategy demonstrates that, even in states that might otherwise oppose the CPP, focusing on your state’s production of renewable energy may prove to be a pragmatic way to advance positive results for health and a livable planet.

Help Stop Coal Trains

Focusing in on what the UCSF community can do, Dr. Gould suggested a clear call to action:  to sign PSR’s letter fighting against the current proposal to export coal from the Port of Oakland.  Help to stop coal trains in Oakland by signing this letter HERE.  PSP’s letter to the Oakland City Council presents the unique perspective of health care professionals, explaining that coal trains, and the entire coal industry, needs to be stopped. 

According to Sierra Club, “The developers of an export terminal on City-owned land on the Oakland waterfront have been quietly soliciting a partnership with four Utah counties to export up to ten million tons of coal out of Oakland each year. The partnership would make Oakland the largest coal-export facility on the West Coast, and would increase national coal exports by a whopping 19 percent. This is a frightening prospect for the entire region. It would mean long, dusty coal trains through our communities and compromising health, worker safety, and climate security.

You can also join PSR’s Clean Energy Saves Lives campaign, offering simple monthly actions to promote the Clean Power Plan, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

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Story:  Green Impact:  Making Green Happen

Coal Train Photo:  Sierra Club