Hundreds of people gathered on the south lawn of the Indiana Statehouse Saturday to celebrate the federal government’s commitment to reduce carbon pollution in America.
Like any party there was singing, spirited chanting and stories among new and old friends. There was even cake.
But in addition to a party, the gathering was also a call-to-action rally complete with banners and handmade signs calling for Indiana’s state government officials to join in on the fun.
The call to action: Take a stand — Make a plan.
The message was intended for Gov. Mike Pence and the Indiana Legislature. Partygoers even went as far as calling Pence’s office to leave a group message asking the governor to adhere to the new rules and create a plan to reduce carbon emissions from the state’s power plants.
Coincidentally the governor’s incoming voicemail was turned off so no message could be left. But that didn’t rain on the partygoers’ parade. Instead, they video recorded the message and sent it to Pence’s email.
Still, the united voices for cleaner air were determined to be heard.
The Clean Power Plan
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency and President Obama announced the Clean Power Plan, which is designed to reduce carbon pollution from the country’s power plants by 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030. The EPA determined three ways to achieve the best system of emissions reduction — reducing carbon intensity, utilizing natural gas and increasing renewable energy sources (wind and solar). The plan allows each state to develop its own method — utilizing those three ways in the best way possible — to achieve its individual reduction goal. States also have the option of working together or alone to achieve those goals.
The individual reduction requirements vary from state to state. For Indiana, the new rule would require a 28.5 percent reduction in carbon dioxide generated per unit of electricity from 2012 levels. As in previous plans, states can also buy and sell emissions credits to each other to reach the national goal of 32 percent. For instance, if Michigan exceeds its emissions goals by 6 percent, Indiana could buy that 6 percent and add that credit to its 28.5 percent goal. (It’s like that group project in school when one student does more work than the others, but the entire group gets the same grade.)
Every state is expected to submit its plan by September 2016. However if that isn’t enough time to put an action plan together states can apply for an extension that’s good through September 2018. If a state fails to submit a plan, the EPA will create a plan for that state, which is expected to include some sort of carbon trading program.
Following the announced Clean Power Plan, Gov. Mike Pence immediately issued a statement that Indiana would not comply with the new rules and would not submit a plan.
Pence made his intentions of ignoring the plan known back in December 2014 when he penned a letter stating as much when the plan was merely a draft. The letter, sent to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, claimed the rules were “ill-conceived and poorly constructed.”
In June of this year Pence wrote a second letter to President Obama stating Indiana would not comply with the Clean Power Plan unless the final rule was “demonstrably and significantly improved” from the proposed rule. (Back then Indiana’s proposed reduction amount was only 24 percent.)
Both letters asked for the rules to be withdrawn completely.
No such luck.
In his statement last week, Pence claimed the final rules were being imposed without any consideration for “the interests of Hoosier ratepayers, jobs and the economy.” He also pledged to fight the rules in court.
“Indiana will also continue to vigorously challenge the legality of this rule in the federal courts,” said Pence in his statement. “Far too much is at stake for jobs and the economy in Indiana for us to do anything less.”
Indiana had joined a lawsuit with several other states challenging the proposed rules only to see the suit thrown out. The appeals court decreed the plaintiff states needed to wait until the rules were finalized.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has already joined with Kentucky and 13 other states to begin the process to block the implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The complaining states filed an administration stay with the EPA to stop the rule’s implementation. Indiana and the other states are planning to file a lawsuit in federal court in Washington D.C. in an effort to delay the September 2016 deadline for state plans to be submitted.
U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) also voiced opposition to the Clean Power Plan.
“Instead of providing a workable plan with fair, achievable carbon goals, the rule requires Hoosiers to carry one of the heaviest loads in reducing the country’s carbon emissions, which will make energy more expensive for families and make it more difficult for Indiana businesses to compete,” said Donnelly. “This rule seems designed to establish by regulation the ‘cap and trade’ plan that I voted against in 2009. We need to find a better way to protect our environment without disproportionally shifting the burden onto all Hoosier families.”
The opposition to the Clean Power Plan is bipartisan, but so is the support.
One of the speakers at the Saturday party was Carmel mayor Jim Brainard who called on his fellow Republicans to do the right thing and create a plan that is beneficial to all Hoosiers.
“No matter your politics, there is overwhelming evidence of climate change and its impact on humanity,” said Brainard. “It’s clear that the poles are warming and, regardless of the reason, we need to be prepared to deal with the impacts of a changed climate. The Clean Power Plan is an important step for all of us in moving towards this objective.”
Brainard recalled GOP leaders of yesteryear who made the nation’s environment a priority through their actions. President Theodore Roosevelt established the U.S. Forest Service and several nature reservations, game preserves, national parks and national forests to protect millions of acres of public land. President Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and the original Clean Air Act.
Over 2,500 jobs in Indiana are related to the coal industry, but the Carmel mayor says the state has the resources (can you say Rainy Day Fund?) to retrain those workers in clean energy efficient jobs.
Although Indiana is one of the top 10 coal-producing states in the nation, state utilities use only 2-thirds of the coal produced in Indiana and buys the rest from other states like West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky and others (many of which are among those states suing the EPA alongside Indiana). According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Indiana is second only to Texas in terms of coal consumption and leads the nation in the use of coal in the industrial sector.
The Carmel mayor says Indiana can shift its coal leadership to renewable energy through the Clean Power Plan.
John Hamilton, former commissioner for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, echoed Brainard’s sentiment and told the crowd his former IDEM colleagues we ready and waiting to create a plan. Hamilton also joined the voices urging Pence to allow IDEM to write a plan instead of resisting the new rule.
“Gov. Pence’s defiance of the Clean Power Plan is unprecedented and potentially harmful to the state of Indiana,” said Hamilton, who is also the Democratic candidate for mayor in Bloomington. “If Indiana refuses to write its own plan, one will be written for us by EPA. Indiana has always done its part to write state clean air plans that make sense for Hoosier families and businesses. To refuse to try is irresponsible and disloyal to the interests of our state.”
Environmental groups like the Hoosier Environmental Council, the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Indiana chapter of the NAACP and several others voiced their support for the Clean Power Plan and the need for cleaner air. As City-County Councillor and party host Zach Adamson stated, “every Hoosier deserves to breathe cleaner air.”