West Michigan Reacts to EPA’s Carbon-Cutting Plan

Posted at 8:00 PM, Jun 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-02 21:13:51-04

WEST MICHIGAN (June 2, 2014) – The federal government is making a major push to quell the toxins released into the atmosphere from power plants across the country.

It’s a plan our government says will slow climate change, by cutting the carbon dioxide in the air that we breathe.

Whether you believe in climate change, there is no question west Michigan has been dealing with pollution problems for decades, but it’s not entirely to blame.

It is likely a case of ‘their problem’ becoming ‘our problem.’

Westerly winds carry toxins from factories and power plants in cities like Milwaukee, Chicago and Gary across the waters of Lake Michigan.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday it wants to slash carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent by 2030.

The EPA hopes the move will accelerate the nation’s shift away from coal, spur innovation and create jobs.

The president is asking the agency to finalize a plan by June of next year, after which states will have at least a year to craft their plans.

If states balk at submitting, the EPA could step in with its own plan.

Sara Wurfel, a spokewoman for Gov. Rick Snyder, told FOX 17 the state needs time to review the new rules.

“It is massive in terms of size and magnitude,” Wurfel said in a statement. “Michigan has been working hard to lay fundamentals of a good, comprehensive energy [plan] and that’s been lacking at the federal level.”

Dan Wyant, the director of the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality, called the EPA’s goal ‘appropriate,’ but added that it’s still ‘early’ in the process.

The reality is that many debates are just beginning.

In Michigan, utility companies believe they are on track, but expect changes to be made.

“We are on a trajectory to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by the year 2025,” said Roger Morgenstern, a spokesman for Consumers Energy. “The work we’re already doing at the plant – without a mandate – is already resulting in lower carbon dioxide emissions. How that factors in to what the president announced today, we still have to study and see.”

In Port Sheldon, coal is the primary source of fuel at the J. H. Campbell Generating Complex. As these new rules by the Obama administration begin to be implemented, utility companies like Consumers Energy will have to figure out how to keep up with those new regulations.

Many Republicans are critical of the new rules.  Some say the regulations are designed to hurt — even kill — the coal industry.

“Energy companies have been doing this already,” said U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land. “They’ve actually been able to lower their use of coal energy by over 10 percent. I think we need to let them do what they do best, rather than having the overburden and regulation of the federal government telling them what to do.”

Land made a campaign stop at west Michigan office furniture company Compatico on Monday to hear about how Washington’s policies are impacting business.

Compatico CEO Patrick Mullen told FOX 17 he’s concerned about how potentially higher energy costs paid by his clients would impact Compcatico’s bottom line.

“The EPA regulations they’re talking about today, all of these increase the cost of doing business,” said Mullen. “When businesses have increased costs, companies like Compatico, that sell products to businesses, have a lot less available opportunity ‘cuz companies just don`t have the money to spend for capital improvements.”

Change is expected to be costly. The exact total is uncertain.

“We are very concerned about the price for electricity that our customers pay and so we have to work with the regulators to balance that,” Morgenstern said.

In 2009, when proposed cap and trade policies were studied by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, it said energy prices would decrease for low-income Americans.

Researchers at Harvard and Syracuse universities say the benefits to rules like those proposed today by the EPA are twofold.

“There will be benefits,” said Charlie Driscoll, a professor of environmental systems engineering at Syracuse University. “ There will be health benefits. There will also be economic benefits associated with that. If there’s increased reliance on renewables, if there’s a more flexible energy program, there will be a lot of jobs associated with implementing this rule.”