The coal-fired Castle Gate Power Plant sits idle, no longer producing electricity outside Helper, Utah. (Photo: George Frey/Reuters)
This week President Obama unveiled the finalized Clean Power Plan (CPP), which would impose strict limits on the amount of carbon that power plants can dump into the air, prompting praise from Democrat presidential contenders and immediate backlash from Republicans, who called it an expensive job killer.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan, which is the centerpiece of the president’s climate strategy, sets standards for the country to reduce its CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
According to the White House, the Clean Power Plan will save the average American family nearly $85 annually on energy bills in 2030 and create tens of thousands of jobs.
“Whenever America has set clear rules and smarter standards for our air, our water, our children’s health, we get the same scary stories about killing jobs and businesses and freedom,” Obama said at a press conference.
The commander in chief, admittedly a bit nostalgic on the eve of his 54th birthday, recalled going for a run through Los Angeles shortly after arriving in the city for his freshman year of college.
“After about five minutes, I got this weird feeling like I couldn’t breathe,” he said. “And the reason was, back in 1979, Los Angeles still was so full of smog that there were days that people who were vulnerable just couldn’t go outside, and they were fairly frequent.”
President Obama departs after speaking about his Clean Power Plan in the White House. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP)
At the time, according to Obama, many of the same political figures who once attacked the successful policies that helped clean that air to the point where you can run in L.A. “without choking” are now using the same “scare-mongering tactics” against the CPP, saying it will kill jobs, hurt low-income people and cost too much.
“There will be cynics who say it cannot be done. Long before the details of this Clean Power Plan were even decided, the special interests and their allies in Congress were already mobilizing to oppose it with everything they’ve got,” Obama said.
Many Democratic and Republican candidates in the 2016 presidential election swiftly chimed in with their support or condemnation of the plan, which has been endorsed by the American Lung Association for protecting the health of vulnerable Americans.
GOP candidates are in a somewhat tricky position. If they support the plan, they will hurt themselves in the Republican primaries, but if they dismiss climate change altogether, they risk losing crossover votes in the general election.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush released a statement saying the CPP will lead to job losses and more expensive electricity bills, while running over state governments.
“Climate change will not be solved by grabbing power from states or slowly hollowing out our economy,” Bush said. “The real challenge is how do we grow and prosper in order to foster more game-changing innovations and give us the resources we need to solve problems like this one.”
Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, said at a forum hosted by a coal trade group that she would repeal the CPP’s emission rules if elected president, the Washington Examiner reported.
“They’re terrible. Every single one of them should be repealed,” Fiorina said during a question-and-answer session.
Republican presidential candidates gather on stage before a forum in Manchester, N.H. From left: Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. (Photo: Jim Cole/AP)
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio described the CPP as “catastrophic” Sunday in California at the Freedom Partners Summit, which is funded by the Koch brothers.
“It will make the cost of utilities higher for millions of Americans. For some billionaire somewhere who is a pro-environmental cap and trade person, yeah, they can probably afford for their electric bill to go up a couple hundred dollars,” Rubio said. “But if you’re a single mom in Tampa, Fla., and your electric bill goes up by $30 a month, that is catastrophic.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called the CPP a “costly power plan” when asked about climate change at the Voters First Forum in Manchester, N.H., the Wisconsin State Journal reported.
“It would be like a buzzsaw to the nation’s economy,” Walker said of the plan.
Walker later tweeted, “Obama’s plan should be called the Costly Power Plan because it will cost hard-working Americans jobs and raise their energy rates.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has been steadfast in his opposition to the plan, saying it would “bankrupt families.”
“Obama’s carbon crusade shows he’s more committed to confronting American coal miners than Iranian clerics who chant ‘death to America,’” he tweeted.
Republican presidential candidates mix and mingle on stage. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)
Ted Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, released a statement urging both parties to oppose what he considers Obama’s “dangerous agenda of economic decline.”
“The President’s lawless and radical attempt to destabilize the Nation’s energy system is flatly unconstitutional and — unless it is invalidated by Congress, struck down by the courts, or rescinded by the next Administration — will cause Americans’ electricity costs to skyrocket at a time when we can least afford it,” the statement reads.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry all criticized the carbon limits during an April forum in Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported.
Each candidate said the plan is an example of bureaucratic overreach that will kill jobs and increase costs.
According to Santorum, “The regulations that we’re seeing coming out of this administration have nothing to do with science. It’s like a quasi-religious crusade for them. They want to eliminate fossil fuels. They don’t care about the impact.”
Jindal said that federal government interference could prevent an “energy revolution” from increasing incomes across the country: “It’s also an opportunity to lower energy prices and put more dollars in the average family’s pockets.”
While unveiling the finalized plan, Obama said that these kinds of criticisms are simply “excuses for inaction.”
“They don’t even make good business sense,” he said. “They undermine American business and American ingenuity.”
Unsurprisingly, the Democrats largely supported the plan.
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont issued a statement Sunday supporting the CPP, applauding Obama for recognizing climate change as a “great planetary crisis.”
“I understand that Republicans, including many of those running for president, are dependent on the Koch brothers, oil companies and other fossil-fuel contributors. Maybe for once they can overcome the needs of their campaign contributors and worry instead about the planet they are leaving their kids and grandchildren and young people all over the world,” Sanders said.
Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign town hall in Manchester, N.H., Aug. 1, 2015. (Photo: Dominick Reuter/Reuters)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in a statement that the CPP is “a significant step forward in meeting the urgent threat of climate change.”
“It’s a good plan, and as president, I’d defend it,” she said.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley took to Twitter to praise Obama’s plan and vowed to expand it.
“@POTUS’s clean power plan is a great step fwd, & I’d expand it to cover large emission sources beyond power plants,” he tweeted.
Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee went on record in favor of the CPP when the EPA first proposed it in June 2014.
“Thank you to the President and the EPA for taking this step forward to reduce pollution from power plants, which nationally is a large source of carbon emissions,” he said in a statement.
Not every candidate has offered his or her opinion on the plan.