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State Views: Wisconsin will realize many benefits under EPA carbon pollution limits

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Keith Reopelle
June 7, 2014

Wisconsin has many reasons to welcome the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed carbon pollution limits, unveiled this week.

For one, our state already is well-positioned to comply with the rules, thanks to very successful clean energy and energy-efficiency programs that we've been running for the past 15 years. Together, investor-owned utilities have decreased emissions by more than 10 percent between 2005 and 2012, according to the EPA. The investments Alliant Energy has made in wind power and energy efficiency through the years have contributed to this progress.

Clean Wisconsin has been sitting down with utilities across the state, including Alliant, to understand the challenges, and to work collaboratively to meet those challenges.

Wisconsin's proposed target of cutting carbon emissions 34 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 marks a practical and reasonable step to achieving cleaner air and a higher quality of life, especially for our children, at a very low cost. Consider that a global sustainability organization, the World Resources Institute, recently conducted an analysis showing that Wisconsin actually could make a 43 percent cut by 2020—10 years ahead of the EPA's proposed deadline—using policies and programs already in place.

Consumers will benefit, too. For example, the state's Focus on Energy program has been helping people reduce bills through energy efficiency while producing a 3-to-1 return on investment.

With EPA's proposal to further limit carbon pollution at our power plants, we anticipate a great deal of economic development in Wisconsin with manufacturers, clean-energy companies and our farms all standing to benefit by providing the clean-energy solutions. This is an excellent opportunity to help Wisconsin keep more of the $12 billion that we spend every year importing fossil fuels. Instead of creating jobs and opportunities elsewhere, that money would be put to work here to create good jobs in a fast-growing sector for the benefit of hardworking families throughout our state.

Environmental groups aren't the only ones in favor of carbon limits. Just last week, more than 100 doctors and nurses from Wisconsin signed a letter to President Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to support the rules. Nearly 400 religious and faith-based organization leaders in the Midwest sent a letter of their own, explaining climate change's role in global issues such as hunger and access to clean water.

Rising temperatures in Wisconsin will contribute to poor air quality, flooding that diminishes water quality, droughts that will hurt agriculture, and altered levels in the Great Lakes, which will create damaging effects on shipping, ecosystems and infrastructure.

In short, we have to move forward and think about our children's future. Limiting carbon pollution plays a very important role. The EPA's proposal contains a great deal of flexibility to help our utilities comply, and we look forward to continued collaboration to help make these rules as effective as possible for the lowest cost possible.

Keith Reopelle is senior policy director at Clean Wisconsin, the state's largest environmental organization. Contact him at 608-251-7020, ext. 11, or kreopelle@cleanwisconsin.org.



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