This blog post was originally written by KEF's Health Coordinator Deborah Payne as a special contribution to the Courier-Journal. Find the original op-ed here.
In a recent opinion editorial, Sen. Mitch McConnell shared his thoughts on how to comply with the EPA's plan to protect our commonwealth from a shifting climate: Don't do anything. Don't make a plan for the future. And by all means, don't pay attention to that pesky tsunami of challenges that climate change will inevitably leave on our front doorstep. How forward thinking.
Turning our back on this tsunami, however, will not change the new norm of increased drought and food insecurity, more intense and damaging storms, and hotter, riskier summers. The reality is, while McConnell is encouraging us to drag our heels, there's really no sense in wearing out a perfectly good pair of shoes.
Kentucky has options.
The EPA's Clean Power Plan is one of the most flexible of its policies ever implemented. Kentucky even participated in the design process. States get to develop their own plan and can even partner with other states to add to their options. Only when we don't do a good job would the federal agency step in. It's like asking a 5-year-old to make good choices at a buffet line. The options are there: vegetables, healthy protein, a little baked potato. But instead the 5-year-old chooses all dessert, with maybe a side of garlic bread. It may be tasty. But it doesn't mean it's the best plan. A little guidance is not a bad thing.
The reality is we have choices.
We can choose plans to make our homes more energy-efficient. We can choose to purchase power from out-of-state wind farms and we can invest in solar energy production right here in our own commonwealth. The Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a proposed piece of state legislation that could help us meet our goal, would potentially build in an estimated 26,000 jobs. This act would ramp up use of clean energy to 12.5 percent and would make substantial investments in energy efficiency. North Carolina adopted a similar measure in 2007 and has already seen a net increase of over 18,000 jobs added to their economy.
The Clean Power Plan is well within the capacity of regulation by the EPA, an agency signed into law by a Republican president to protect citizens from the negative health consequences of polluted air and water.
McConnell's statement is full of rhetoric designed to instigate fear about a plan that actually has the health of Kentuckians in mind. When it comes to air quality and health, Kentuckians have the most to gain. With some of the highest levels of coal-related smog in the country we also experience some of the highest rates of asthma and cardiovascular disease.
Acting now is Kentucky's best option.
Choosing a healthy energy diet that reduces air pollution and cuts back on waste is actually a good idea. Failing to comply just means Kentucky has to answer to why it only has garlic bread on its plate.