If overheated rhetoric and pointless lawsuits could save the world, we would live in nirvana by now. Unfortunately, Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, adds far more heat than light to the debate about how we should power Idaho’s future, keep our air and water clean, and gain energy independence for all America.
According to his Nov. 20 opinion piece, Thompson wants to drag Idaho into yet another ill-guided lawsuit against that handy boogeyman, the “feds.” This time, he wants Idaho to joust with the Obama Administration over its Clean Power Plan.
Thompson is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts. Here are some facts he ignores or distorts on his way to a shaky conclusion.
▪ First, Idaho utilities and regulatory agencies have already analyzed a range of scenarios for our state to comply with in the Clean Power Plan. They indicated Idaho can easily meet the carbon limits spelled out in the plan with minimal costs to customers. In fact, under some of those scenarios, complying with the Clean Power Plan will actually reduce the cost of electricity for Idahoans. Thompson should have asked Idaho’s electricity experts at our utilities and public utilities commission before making an unfounded claim that the cost of electricity will soar.
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▪ Second, the Clean Power Plan will protect Idaho from dangerous pollution. The Clean Power Plan establishes a national goal to reduce carbon pollution from the electricity sector 32 percent by 2030. There are many good reasons for this goal: coal is a dirty and obsolete form of energy that is the single largest contributor to climate change. Coal cannot be mined without degrading clean water, causes health problems such as asthma when it is burned, puts mercury into our air and water, and contributes to acid rain. Because coal pollution crosses state lines, it’s exactly the kind of problem that needs attention at the federal level.
▪ Third, Idaho can craft a plan that makes sense for our state. The Clean Power Plan achieves this national goal by assigning each state a carbon pollution goal to achieve by 2030. Idaho’s goal is among the least stringent in the country. Importantly, Idaho can craft our own plan to reach this goal based on our specific needs and resources, including building on our strong tradition of programs to help Idahoans use energy efficiently. Letting each state develop a unique plan based on conserving our valuable energy resources is truly conservative.
▪ Fourth, crafting a clean power plan for Idaho will benefit our economy. Idaho imports almost half of its energy, costing our state around $370 million each year. Investing that money in Idaho’s own clean energy resources is not only good for the air we breathe, it will grow our local economy by keeping energy dollars at home and putting Idahoans to work.
Thompson suggests we should scrap all this work for a lawsuit. Instead of wasting money on another ideological lawsuit, Idaho utilities and regulators are moving on with the Clean Power Plan because the plan makes sense, is economically manageable, and gives Idaho plenty of leeway to set its own path.
Working together for Idaho is a better deal than spending more money on lawyers and lawsuits.
Ben Otto is the energy associate for the Idaho Conservation League.