Advocates and opponents of stricter new power plant emission regulations will gather in Atlanta on Tuesday to voice their concerns.
About 15 people from Augusta will attend the hearings on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, said April Wilson, a member of the local chapter of the Sierra Club.
“We want the government to do something to prevent climate change,” she said. “And the U.S. should start setting an example for other countries.”
The EPA regulations would generally require power plants to reduce carbon pollution by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Georgia emitted 57 million metric tons in 2012 and it would have to reach a certain emission-to-electricity goal under the proposed regulations.
Atlanta-based Southern Company, which plans to speak at the hearings, said in a statement that the plan “will hurt the reliability and affordability of our nation’s energy supply. The proposal limits fuel diversity and dictates compliance solutions to the states, which will increase costs to customers and negatively impact America’s energy security.”
But environmentalists said the proposed regulations will provide savings in health care and other costs by reducing pollution-derived illness. The new standards would help to prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children, said Frances Beinecke, the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The EPA plan “will significantly reduce our biggest source of climate pollution, unlimited carbon coming from our existing power plants,” she said. “It’s the biggest step we’ve ever taken against climate change, which today is already harming our health and environment.”
Climate change is having diverse effects already, including an “exploding” tick and mosquito population in some states, said Collin O’Mara, the president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.
“Without actions like those that EPA is proposing, we are putting our entire outdoor legacy at risk in this country,” he said.
The move could also put a greater emphasis on developing more clean alternative sources, such as solar and wind energy, which are already dropping rapidly in cost, said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club. The cost of solar has dropped more than 60 percent in the last three years and the cost of wind has dropped 40 percent, he said.
“Clean energy sources like wind and solar are becoming much cheaper much faster than anyone had guessed was possible,” Brune said. “By 2030, clean energy will be playing a much bigger role in our economy than even the EPA is expecting.”
Wilson hopes that means “more green power and more green power jobs (in Georgia),” she said. “The state is going to choose how to enact the law. At that point in time, hopefully we can find ways that make everybody happy, including industry.”