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Black business group blasts the EPA’s Clean Power Plan

By   /   June 17, 2015  /   No Comments

Photo from Flickr Commons

CLEANED OUT?: A recent study claims that Hispanics and African-Americans will be disproportionately hurt by the economics of the proposed EPA Clean Power Plan.

By Rob Nikolewski │ Watchdog.org

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency insists its proposed Clean Power Plan is a much-needed step forward, but the National Black Chamber of Commerce has attacked the plan.

The move, says the chamber, would increase utility prices, and minority communities and the poor would be hit the hardest.

“The EPA’s carbon dioxide regulation is a slap in the face to poor and minority families,” NBCC president and CEO Harry Alford said in a statement last week. “These communities already suffer from higher unemployment and poverty rates compared to the rest of the country, yet EPA’s regressive energy tax threatens to push minorities and low-income Americans even further into poverty.”

The NBCC pointed to a study prepared by Management Information Services, Inc., a research and analysis group based in Oakton, Virginia. The study predicted the Clean Power Plan to reduce CO2 emissions across the country would result in the average family paying more than $1,225 more for power and gas in 2030 than they paid in 2012.

It goes on to claim that EPA regulations would increase poverty among Hispanics by more than 26 percent and African-Americans by more than 23 percent, with the impact growing in the next 20 years:

Chart from Management Information Services, Inc.

Management Information Services, Inc.

“EPA’s apparent indifference to the plight of low-income and minority households is inexcusable,” Alford said. “We should pursue policies that expand opportunity for the less fortunate, not ones that further disadvantage them. The only solution is for (the) EPA to withdraw its rule.”

But the EPA says it “conducted an unprecedented amount of outreach” to people affected by the plan.

“The proposed Clean Power Plan provides broad benefits to all communities across the nation,” the agency said in a statement to Watchdog.org. “Reducing greenhouse gases, the primary driver of climate change, is especially beneficial to low income communities, communities of color and indigenous populations, those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.”

Supporters of the Clean Power Plan defended the EPA, saying minority groups have large numbers of people who suffer from breathing disorders such as asthma, and the Clean Power Plan will go a long way toward alleviating those problems.

“Polluted air from dirty energy sources makes our communities sick, resulting in unfair economic burdens on families from hospital costs to missed work days,” Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, director of federal policy for WE ACT for Environmental Justice, said in a statement. “The solution is not for the EPA to withdraw the Clean Power Plan.”

“It’s disheartening that the dirty energy industry thinks our community can be that easily fooled by a sham study paid for by polluters and distributed by a tiny subset of minority business groups that don’t represent our views,” said Mark Magaña, founder of GreenLatinos.

But the author of the 135-page study defended its conclusions.

“The bottom line is that the proposed EPA regulation will significantly raise energy costs, especially electricity prices, and no one disputes that, not even EPA or (the Energy Information Administration),” Roger Bezdek, president of Management Information Services, told Watchdog.org. “Of course, it varies in different regions and different states.”

Bezdek said his company has a history of working with the industry, as well as environmental organizations — from Greenpeace to the United Nations.

“Many of (our) studies have generated controversy from both sides,” Bezdek said. “So, if you’re attacked from people with all different points of view and both sides of the political spectrum, you can suspect you’ve done something right.”

The report says blacks and Hispanics spend 10 percent more on utilities than whites, and the expenses related to the Clean Power Plan will especially affect seven states with the highest concentrations of those ethnic groups: Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, and Texas.

“Lower income people have to spend more of their discretionary income on energy because they have no choice,” Bezdek said in a telephone interview. “There are numerous studies documenting this. When the crunch comes, they can spend less on food, less on clothing, less on entertainment, less on education — but they can’t spend less on energy. They have to pay the utility bills. They have to pay the gasoline to get them to and from their jobs.”

The EPA counters the Clean Power Plan will save money in the long run.

“EPA projects the Clean Power Plant will build on longstanding efforts by states, cities, businesses and homeowners to increase energy efficiency and reduce growth in demand for electricity,” the agency’s statement said.

“This means that in 2030, when the plan is fully implemented, we expect electricity bills to be roughly 8 percent lower — savings of about $8 a month on an average monthly residential bill — than they would have been without the actions in state plans.”

Introduced in June 2014, the Clean Power Plan has received praise as well as criticism.

Public utility commissioners, environmental and energy agency leaders in 14 states have come out in support of the EPA.

Photo from EPA website

SAVE MONEY IN THE LONG RUN?: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announcing the details of the proposed Clean Power Plan in June 2014.

“This plan is a down payment on a more efficient, 21st century power system that cuts energy waste, cuts pollution and cuts costs,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a speech unveiling the proposal, which would mark the first time the agency will regulate carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s existing power plants.

The EPA will require all 50 states to take part in the Clean Power Plan, although McCarthy insists the plan offers each state flexibility in putting together their CO2 reductions.

Related: Will the EPA’s Clean Power Plan save you money or clean your clock? 

But there are questions about how much the plan will cost.

A study released earlier this year estimated 43 states will see their electricity prices increase by double-digits in the next decade, and 14 states will experience peak-year increases of more than 20 percent.

“Critics claim your energy bills will skyrocket,” McCarthy said last June. “They’re wrong. Any small, short-term change in electricity prices would be within normal fluctuations the power sector already deals with. And any small price increase — think about the price of a gallon of milk a month — is dwarfed by huge benefits.”

The Clean Power Plan has drawn fire from critics who say the EPA is overreaching.

Laurence Tribe, who was professor of constitutional law for Barack Obama at Harvard and a well-known figure in liberal policy circles, slammed the Clean Power Plan at a congressional hearing earlier this year.

“EPA is attempting an unconstitutional trifecta: usurping the prerogatives of the states, Congress and the federal courts all at once,”  Tribe told the House Energy and Power Subcommittee.

“Burning the Constitution should not become part of our national energy policy.”

Tribe submitted comments criticizing the EPA plan last December on behalf of Peabody Energy, the largest private sector coal company in the world.

The Obama administration won a preliminary fight earlier this month when a federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit by coal companies and 14 coal-producing states trying to block the Clean Power Plan. The court ruled the suit was premature because the EPA hasn’t finalized the plan.

But other suits are expected once the Clean Power Plan’s details are put into final form, which is scheduled to happen in August.

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Rob Nikolewski is the National Energy Correspondent for Watchdog.org. He is based in Santa Fe, N.M. Contact him at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @NMWatchdog.