Friday, April 13, 2012 | noon
On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the federal government, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, had the responsibility to control industrial carbon pollution. The decision was in response to a petition by 12 states; three cities; an American territory; and 13 conservation groups, including the Sierra Club.
On the opposite side of the argument were the Bush administration; the car- and truck-making industry; 10 states; and utilities that generated tons of the carbon emissions, mostly through burning coal. Of particular concern by those opposed to carbon emissions are the direct impacts to human health, particularly the health of children, from lung and heart disease as well as the overwhelming evidence that the volume of industrial carbon pollution in the air is profoundly changing the climate all over the world.
The court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA was a landmark in environmental law and has led to a decision last month by the EPA to limit the amount of carbon that could be generated by new coal-fired power plants. Media analysts from left and right are predicting that the most recent EPA rule-making decision spells the ultimate end of Big Coal as utilities turn to cleaner, cheaper sources for energy.
In the five years since the Supreme Court made its ruling, Nevada has moved faster than many other states to accommodate a new regulatory situation. Simply put, we’ve got a lot to be proud of and our moves have helped generate thousands of jobs and contributed to a healthier environment.
• Nevada has created a climate registry to track our state’s climate emissions.
• The state has set a goal of 25 percent of electricity to be generated through renewable energy by 2025 — a goal that electric utility NV Energy executives insist is the minimum, not the ceiling, for clean energy production.
• A Clark County municipal utility, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, has warned of the danger created by carbon-related climate disruption to our water supply from the Colorado River.
• Plans for three coal-fired generating plants have been scrapped in our state.
• A bipartisan commission has been established to encourage even more renewable energy production in Nevada.
Despite the important moves in Nevada to confront industrial carbon pollution, it is still a problem. It is a profoundly important health issue. Exposure to carbon pollution of any source strongly correlates with asthma and other respiratory diseases and health problems, especially in children. For proof, sadly, we only have to look to the Moapa Band of Paiutes, downwind of the Reid-Gardner coal plant in Clark County, where children’s asthma and other health problems are rampant. Ask the Moapa Paiutes if industrial carbon pollution is a health issue. They know it is.
And eventually, we are all downwind of coal plants.
The EPA has done the right thing by addressing new sources of industrial carbon pollution in the rules issued in March, but as with any important public policy change, there will be substantial resistance by those who profit from dumping carbon into the atmosphere. We must urge the EPA to stand strong against attacks on the rules and urge our elected representatives in Congress to avoid attacks on the EPA’s scientists and their rule-making authority.
Tick Segerblom is a Democratic assemblyman from Las Vegas.