McCarthy Highlights Economic Threats From Inaction On Climate Change

Source: Amanda Palleschi, Inside EPA • Posted: Tuesday, February 11, 2014

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is emphasizing the economic threats the nation faces from failing to act to address climate change, stressing the importance of sustainable jobs and renewable energy along with pending EPA climate utility rules at a Feb. 10 “green jobs” conference.

“The threat of climate change is becoming more and more real to all of us. It has impacts on people, the planet,” she told the Washington, DC, conference sponsored by the newly reinvigorated BlueGreen Alliance, a group that aims to align environmental groups and trade unions on policies. And McCarthy specifically noted that climate impacts “are a threat to our economy.”

Natural disasters that are considered to be at least in part fueled or worsened by global warming cost $110 billion last year alone, McCarthy said in her talk. She also backed President Obama’s remarks from his Jan. 28 State of the Union address where she said he “reiterated his commitment to climate action.”

She said reducing greenhouse gas emissions needs to be done “without sacrificing our reliable, affordable energy system. And we need to do it with every sensitivity to workers that have brought energy to American families. It’s not just about jobs, it is about communities where those workers live and we need to be sensitive to those issues as we struggle to find the right solutions moving forward,” McCarthy said.

Her comments come just as environmentalists and unions are seeking to re-energize the BlueGreen Alliance despite existing disagreements over coal plant closures and the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Sierra Club Feb. 7 acknowledged for the first time the severe economic pain experienced by communities dealing with the closure of coal-fired power plants, issuing a statement that acknowledges the transition to clean energy and away from coal cannot be pursued blindly. “The time is right to stand with communities that depend on fossil fuels,” Sierra Club Chairman Michael Brune said

But the alliance is pursuing creation of jobs in renewable energy, and it also released a report underscoring its continued commitment to the cause of a clean-energy economy that would move the country away from fossil fuels and create jobs.

McCarthy in her speech underscored this. “It has always been about choosing the economy and the environment,” McCarthy said, while noting that such an approach can win union support as it did in 1990 when the United Steelworkers (USW) — a member of the BlueGreen Alliance –backed major Clean Air Act amendments. “When we step forward to tackle climate change, we will be sure to win in all of these areas. We will win for the workers in this country.”

EPA’s administrator also touted the agency’s upcoming first-time climate rules for existing power plants, including that they will be proposed in June in line with the president’s executive order. She reiterated Feb. 7 comments that EPA plans to include efficiency and renewables in the new source performance standard being developed under section 111(d) of the air law, which some have said provides the agency with utmost flexibility to go beyond a facility’s fenceline and allow such actions, which are already under way in many states, to be credited under the program. McCarthy promised that EPA “will be able to use this to incent additional energy efficiency, to incent renewables, to incent all of the work that you have been doing for so long” in the NSPS.

And while McCarthy did not specifically address climate resiliency in her speech to the BlueGreen Alliance, she is slated to discuss the issue at a Feb. 11 event in Colorado with outgoing White House Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley and David Agnew, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. The administration officials, as part of Obama’s climate action plan, will join Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat to tour projects that will restore the Cache la Poudre River and strengthen the city’s resilience to climate impacts such as high temperatures and extreme weather.

The areas was struck by floods in 2013, and the city’s proactive planning helped mitigate the impacts, an administration statement says. Fort Collins is also one of seven “climate hubs” announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week to offer farmers and ranchers climate adaptation strategies. —