Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Trickle-Down of Obama's Power Plan

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Trickle-Down of Obama's Power Plan

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Trickle-down of Obama's power plan

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published June 3:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his colleagues should welcome and encourage the Clean Power Plan issued this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the Barack Obama administration in Washington. Implementation of the plan will gradually improve the quality of North American air. It may open the way for international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. It may eventually improve U.S. demand for Canadian uranium, natural gas and hydroelectric power.

The EPA plan invites state governments to produce plans for reducing carbon emissions from the 1,000 thermal plants that generate most of America's electric power. If a state refuses to make a plan, the EPA will write one. The net effect of all the resulting steps should be to reduce carbon emissions from those plants by 30 per cent by the year 2030. Different states can do this different ways, depending on their circumstances.

This measure is already hotly contested within the United States. Coal-mining companies, coal-burning power utilities and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are announcing economic disaster. Republicans in Congress and Democrats from coal-mining states oppose the plan.

The legal basis for the new rule is a little uncertain. The U.S. Clean Air Act empowers the president to regulate pollutants, and presidents have done so for 40 years. Carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas in the atmosphere, has not previously been treated as a pollutant in U.S. environmental law. Now that scientists have identified carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, the growing concentration of which in the atmosphere is changing the climate of Earth, it will be treated as a pollutant. The coal companies are already lining up their lawyers to say this is an unconstitutional abuse of presidential power.

Mr. Harper can steer clear of the angry domestic dispute about presidential powers. The heart of the matter is that the United States is moving at last to curtail a huge source of air pollution. The winds that blow American air into Canada can only improve as a result. …

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