Would New EPA Plan Hurt the U.S. Economy?

By CBS News

Published 06/03 2014 08:33PM

Updated 06/03 2014 08:35PM

The Obama administration's new plan to reduce the nation's carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants by 30 percent has triggered the expected political firestorm on Capitol Hill, mostly over the proposal's economic legacy.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) denounced the blueprint as "an illegal use of executive power" that would destroy jobs across the country, while hiking the consumers' utility bills and further straining their budgets.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas also criticized the proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules, saying they would "cripple the coal industry and deprive Americans from jobs, whether they are employed by coal mines or related power plants, or employed in energy dependent business such as manufacturing or technology businesses."But EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy challenged those criticisms, saying the nation has never had to chose between a sound economy and a healthy environment.

"There's a reason why empty allegations from critics sound a little bit like a broken record," she said on Monday. "Because it's the same tired play from the same special-interest playbook that they've used for decades."

In the 1960s, when smog choked our cities," McCarthy continued, "critics cried wolf and said EPA action would put the brakes on auto production. And they were wrong. Instead, our air got cleaner, our kids got healthier -- and we sold more cars."

Some experts note the plan faces more than just political opposition. The proposal itself "is extraordinarily complex and raises a host of thorny legal issues that will lead to years of litigation," said Thomas Lorenzen, a former assistant chief in the U.S. Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division.Although the amount of coal used nationally has been declining in recent years, it still accounts fornearly 40 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S.

"Obviously, if you are in a heavy manufacturing state reliant on coal-fired electrical generation, this is going to affect you more than other states," Judy Palnau, spokeswoman for the Michigan Public Service Commission, told the Detroit Free Press.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman at Xcel Energy, a Minnesota-based electric and natural gas company that operates in eight states, says the company's investments have "prepared us for this day."

The utility, she said in an interview with the Denver Post, has lowered its carbon emissions by 20 percent over the last decade or so by closing its older coal power plants, upgrading facilities and investing in renewable energy.

And, of course, public opinion remains sharply divided over the issues of climate change and global warming. According to a CBS News Poll conducted last month, 46 percent of Americans believe global warming is having a serious impact now.

That compares with 31 percent who do not expect a serious impact until sometime in the future, and the 20 percent who believe global warming does not have a serious impact at all.

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