Portsmouth Press Herald: Environmentalists praise Obama for taking on climate change woes
By Deborah Mcdermott
Environmentalists are hailing President Barack Obama’s major policy speech on climate change Tuesday, saying it’s good to see that “he’s finally taking the plunge.”
Obama announced he was directing his administration to launch first-ever federal regulations on carbon gases emitted by new and existing power plants — “to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution.”
Other aspects of the plan would boost renewable energy production on federal lands, increase efficiency standards and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures.
Nearly all the points laid out in Obama’s plan are executive actions and do not require congressional approval.
“We have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged,” he said. “As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.”
Roger Stephenson, of the New Hampshire chapter of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he is particularly pleased to see that the president is going to be targeting carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants. This would be done through Environmental Protection Agency rulemaking under the auspices of the Clean Air Act.
“I’m glad to see he’s doing this. He has a much more aggressive tone and he’s sending a message that the time to act is now,” Stephenson said.
Existing power plants emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions and one-third of greenhouse gases overall, according to the EPA.
“He’s setting a much more aggressive tone. He’s saying the polluters should pay for the damage to our environment,” said state Rep. David Borden, D-New Castle, chairman of the N.H. House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.
“Congress has abdicated its role by not dealing with this and putting its head in the sand,” said Cameron Wake, a University of New Hampshire professor of climatology and glaciology. “We have to go down the path of regulation. I agree with my libertarian and conservative brethren that we don’t want to overregulate the economy to death. But the fact is, climate change is the most important issue of the 21st century. We have to deal with this.”
Wake and others said they were glad to see that the president also proposes setting aside money so that communities can plan for future sea level rise and major storm events. Becky Bartovics, who serves on the executive committee of the Maine Sierra Club, agrees.
“Communities are finally talking about adaptation,” she said, using the term used for planning for the effects of climate change. “Getting support from the federal government is going to be essential.”
However, not everyone was delighted with Obama’s plan. Greg Moore, New Hampshire state director of the conservative organization Americans for Prosperity, said he believes the president has overextended his authority.
“He’s bypassing the democratic process” of bringing legislation to Congress, he said. “Since he can’t get what he wants, he’s pushing an envelope that will undermine our competitiveness and cost us jobs,” particularly in coal-mining states.
“If he thinks he can make a great case, go to Congress and the American people and do it the right way rather than this back-door mechanism,” Moore said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.