A Desperate Grasp for Coal’s Bygone Past

The combined effect of two recent announcements is that Idahoans pay more for something that harms our quality of life. Idaho’s leaders should reject these cynical moves by the White House.

Tuesday, Oct. 10, marks another attempt by this White House to roll back reality and pay polluters to endanger public health. Today’s event is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) formal announcement that the Clean Power Plan, the agency’s own plan to control carbon pollution from power plants, is illegal. Last week the event was the Department of Energy (DOE) seeking a new rule to subsidize coal and nuclear “baseload” plants in wholesale energy markets. Both moves ignore science, energy markets and public opinion.

It is this double whammy—abandoning carbon pollution limits while subsidizing coal burning—that makes these decisions particularly bad for Idaho. Today we import 40–60% of our electricity and up to 80% of our total energy when you consider transportation. The vast majority of these imports are fossil fuels. Any decision to subsidize fossil fuels raises costs for Idahoans with no commensurate benefit. Meanwhile, pollution from these fossil fuels is changing the climate we rely on as forest fires increase in size and frequency, droughts impact farmers, and extreme weather brings record cold and heat to Idahoans. So the combined effect of these announcements is that Idahoans pay more for something that harms our quality of life. Idaho’s leaders should reject these cynical moves by the White House.

Controlling carbon pollution is essential to protect Idaho’s quality of life and public health; doing so will also control energy bills. The Clean Power Plan, abandoned by the EPA today, set state-specific limits on carbon pollution from power plants and allowed each state to devise a path to achieve these limits. To better understand the impacts to Idaho, ICL asked our utilities to consider a range of compliance scenarios. The most focused look by Idaho Power showed that under all cases controlling carbon generally reduced long-term energy costs. This work laid a solid foundation for Idahoans to consider the best path forward for our state to protect our quality of life. Today EPA abandons this measured, state-specific path in favor of dreams about a bygone era of rampant coal pollution.

Both announcements reflect coal barons grasping for relevance as technology, economics, and public interests shifts strongly towards clean energy. Utilities across the country are choosing wind and solar over coal and gas because clean energy costs less and performs better. Right now PacifiCorp is asking for approval to upgrade 13 wind projects while building four more because this option is “the least cost, least-risk resource when compared to other energy resources.” We see solar projects popping up across southern Idaho and installation companies report booming sales for rooftop solar. In response to these rapidly changing market realties, utilities across the West are developing new energy markets and operational practices to integrate clean energy into the grid.

As people see the benefits of clean energy, public opinion is shifting rapidly as well. A recent Gallup poll concluded that 60% of American believe we should prioritize environmental protection over exploiting fossil fuels, while 71% believe policy should emphasize clean energy over coal, gas and oil. Major business aligns with this public perception with corporations setting ambitious science-based targets to cut carbon pollution.

Instead of fighting in court over whether to ignore climate science ICL is focused on creating a clean energy future for Idaho. We agree with the chairman of the Arkansas Public Utilities Commission: “we need to develop options to deal with [coming carbon limits] other than sticking our head in the sand and hoping we can just file lawsuits forever.” In that spirit, ICL will continue to work with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission, our electric providers, and all stakeholders to ensure reliable, affordable, energy that promotes Idaho’s quality of life.

You can support the Idaho Conservation League’s continuing work to create a clean energy future for Idaho by making a gift.

Help protect the land you love. Become an ICL member or renew today

A passionate advocate for the land we love

Working together to protect Idaho for generations to come