June 26, 2013. President Barack Obama today outlined a suite of regulatory and financial measures aimed at reducing the U.S.’s greenhouse gas emissions, which he said his administration will seek to implement over the next few years. The White House framed the president’s speech in terms of the moral imperative of taking action on climate change for the benefit of future generations, as well as the benefits to public health and the economy of shifting away from fossil fuels toward more sustainable, cleaner energy sources.
Appalachian Voices applauds the much-needed efforts included in the plan, but notes that it fails to address one of the most dire consequences of America’s over-reliance on fossil fuels: the ongoing harm to human health in Appalachian states and the ruination of the mountain region’s economy, present and future, due to the impacts of coal mining, combustion and waste disposal. More than 20 health studies in recent years have shown that residents of Appalachian coal counties, particularly those living near mountaintop removal sites, suffer higher cancer rates, more birth defects, and have shorter life spans than other citizens. The Appalachian region also has many of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants and most dangerous coal ash ponds, posing tremendous risks to human health from air and water pollution, and has one of the lowest rates of energy efficiency in the country.
A statement from Appalachian Voices Executive Director Tom Cormons:
“The president’s plan represents a good first step toward a 21st Century climate and energy policy for America. It’s essential that his administration implement one of the centerpieces of that plan–strong controls on power plant emissions.
“Beyond what he spoke of today, there’s more the president must do to build a robust clean energy economy and ensure that heavily impacted areas like Appalachia don’t get left behind.
“The devastating practice of mountaintop removal coal mining has no place in a 21st Century energy plan, nor in a positive environmental legacy for this president.
“President Obama must stop industry from pushing the costs of doing business off on communities and our environment, while doing more to invest in energy efficiency and renewable sources particularly in Appalachia and other regions that have borne the brunt of a fossil-fuel economy.
“For example, the administration’s plan to provide up to $250 million in loan guarantees to rural utilities to finance job-creating energy efficiency and renewable energy investments is a great start. Compare this to the $8 billion in the president’s plan for loan guarantees supporting fossil fuel projects, and its clear that we need to see a much stronger commitment.
“Such investments will go far to create the jobs, economic security, and environmental health for these areas, consistent with President Obama’s goal of fulfilling a moral obligation to future generations.”