Because New York has large populations downwind of numerous Midwest power plants, it will benefit more than any other state from the federal Clean Power Plan, according to environmental scientist Charles Driscoll.
The plan sets standards for states to reduce the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions and ease the pace of global warming.
Driscoll is a professor of environmental systems engineering at Syracuse University who was the lead author of a recent paper looking at the plan’s health benefits.
According to the study, about 1,900 lives would be saved in New York, and 450 hospitalizations and 110 heart attacks prevented between 2020 to 2030 because of the plan’s more stringent standards.
“We have relatively clean air, but we are downwind from where there is heavy use of coal,” Driscoll said.
The Clean Power Plan will reduce pollutants such as sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury that cause acid rain.
“Energy use in the U.S. is changing very rapidly,” he said. “There’s a tremendous movement away from coal and toward renewables and natural gas, and those sources are low in mercury. It’s terrific news for the Adirondacks.”
Emissions from India and Asia are climbing, however. Driscoll said he is hopeful the United Nations global climate treaty will address the issue internationally.
The biggest global source of mercury emissions are small-scale gold mining operations, Driscoll said.
In June, U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, voted for the Ratepayer Protection Act, which passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate.
The Ratepayer Protection Act would shield a state from having to reduce carbon emissions if its governor notifies the EPA administrator that doing so would hurt the state’s energy ratepayers, or make the state’s electricity system less reliable.
Stefanik’s office release a statement saying she is concerned the Clean Power Plan could raise energy bills for residents of her district.
Jim Herman of Keene is co-founder of Anthros Consulting, which helps organizations cope with climate change. He praised the Clean Power Plan for its flexibility, because it doesn’t tell each state what to do but sets goals they have to meet.
That approach fits with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative shared by nine states including New York, Maine and Connecticut, that has reduced electric power emissions by about 40 percent through a cap-and-trade program.
Herman said the U.S. should lead the world in fighting climate change.
“If the rest of the world gets its act together, it gets harder and harder for a country like India to stand by and do nothing,” Herman said.
States that rely on coal will have the most difficult time adjusting to the plan, he said.
“It’s a war on coal, but it isn’t a war on jobs,” Herman said. “We have to get rid of coal. Coal is ruining the world.”
State Sen. Betty Little said she hasn’t reviewed the Clean Power Plan yet, but she thinks people and businesses in the North Country already do a lot to keep emissions low. She noted that biomass, hydropower, propane and wind energy are available in the region and said there is a proposal to put in more charging stations for electric vehicles along the Northway.
“As far as the exact (federal) plan, there has to be a balance,” Little said.
“I think you have to be careful considering the businesses we have, like the paper mills and the manufacturing plants,” she said. “They provide a lot of jobs, and I think they’re trying to do the right thing.”