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The Daily Tar Heel

Chapel Hill supports Clean Power Plan

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, the original version of this story misrepresented the federal power plan's percentage of energy costs. The plan would increase energy costs by 22 percent. The story has been updated to reflect these changes.

Chapel Hill has joined more than 50 municipal governments across the nation to support the amicus brief filed to defend the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

The Clean Power Plan seeks to promote clean energy practices and to combat pollution by setting national standards for each state to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent, comparative to 2005 levels, by 2030. The plan would give each state the power to customize its own plan to meet their respective emission targets.

The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality is one of the plaintiffs in the multi-state lawsuit filed against the plan, on the grounds that its requirements extend beyond the EPA’s authority and are too costly to implement.

The amicus brief was written by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School and was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit April 1. The brief argues that the plan is a critical legal step in addressing the economic and safety threats posed by climate change.

Oral arguments for the case with the court of appeals begin June 2. 

Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center, said that the hope is that the court will look at the brief and the story it tells about climate change. He said that the brief sends the message that the Clean Power Plan has widespread support from the local leaders who experience the effects of greenhouse gas emissions firsthand.

“It’s a power signal when a state’s politicians take one view, while the local leaders who represent powerful population sectors take the opposite view,” Burger said.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Nancy Oates said that improvements in energy efficiency and emission reductions are important goals for the town council.

“We’ve spent so much time and money on creating a livable city, but if we don’t have a good environment, that means nothing,” Oates said. “Global warming is a real issue and it troubles me that we’re still having to convince some of the elected officials of this fact.”

According to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, the state is on track to meet the mandates set by the Clean Power Plan. The state has reduced its carbon emissions from the power sector by 24 percent since 2008.

Stephanie Hawco, a spokesperson for the department, said that the plan fails to take into account the progress certain states have made.

“They’re trying to make a Prius more efficient while other states are driving 1972 Cadillacs,” Hawco said.

Hawco said that the plan will also increase energy prices for state residents. 

Annual electricity prices are projected to increase by an average of 22 percent if the plan is implemented. Hawco said that as energy prices disproportionately hurt the poor, the department does not want to see state residents pay for an act of federal overreach.

“It’s interesting because a lot of people ask, ‘well, if you’re already on track, why do the standards matter?'” Hawco said. “But why do we need this kind of federal intervention if we’re already on track?”

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