S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson is among officials in more than two dozen states urging President-elect Donald Trump to reverse a plan to limit greenhouse gases emitted from power plants. South Carolinians, in particular, should hope this effort does not succeed.
The Clean Power Plan is a proposal by President Barack Obama’s administration to curb gases that contribute to climate change by requiring a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions at power plants across the nation by 2030. The lawsuit brought by the coalition of states now is being reviewed in federal court and may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, though, Wilson and other attorneys general would like Trump to take executive action on his own to halt the proposal. They say the Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional and an infringement on states’ rights.
The legality of the plan will have to be decided in court. But as a practical matter, it is something most states, including South Carolina, should embrace.
Wilson claims the plan would increase energy costs by 30 percent. But environmental groups strongly dispute that contention.
The Southern Environmental Law Center, for one, says cleaning up emissions would be of minimal cost to the state because the state is in a good position to comply with the rules. Some estimates say the state might even earn money – as much as $1 billion – by selling credits to other states.
That is due in large part to the number of existing and planned nuclear plants in the state. South Carolina has four operating nuclear power plants, including Duke Energy’s Catawba Nuclear Station, which serves much of York County, and SCE&G power company is building two nuclear reactors north of Columbia at its existing Summer power station.
All those plants have essentially zero carbon dioxide pollution. And officials with the state’s power companies say they have crafted strategies to deal with the Clean Power Plan requirements and are well positioned to comply.
In this sense, critics such as Wilson lag behind the power companies and environmental groups in anticipating the future. Officials with the power companies know that global efforts to reduce carbon emissions are inevitable, and they are preparing for them.
No state currently is building new coal-powered plants, and many power companies are phasing out existing ones, largely because natural gas-powered plants are so much cheaper to run. The industry also is looking at ways to adapt to fast-growing alternative energy generators such as solar, wind and water.
Rather than fighting to preserve obsolete methods of energy generation and impede progress in alternative energy sources, states should be looking to the future. Cleaner energy isn’t just healthier, it’s also a better business model for power companies that hope to survive for decades to come.