Guest opinion: Clean Air Act must protect Big Sky country

From NRDC. I would rather read this article on email than walk outside in subzero temperatures to get this read…an option for me…Thanks to NRDC I do not have to.

By RANDY HAFER, MIKE TUSS and CAROLYN VILLA The Billings Gazette | Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2010 12:00 am | (22) Comments

Montana’s Big Sky is worth bragging about — but only if it’s a clean sky. The 40-year-old Clean Air Act has kept it clean and proves every day that jobs and the environment are partners, not competitors.

The Clean Air Act’s health benefits are vast — especially for kids — preventing more than 18 million child respiratory illnesses and 300,000 premature deaths, and dramatically reducing the number of children with IQs below 70 by taking lead out of gasoline. We’ll avoid over 250 million skin cancer cases between 1989 and 2075 by phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals.

The Clean Air Act helped our economy by saving money and creating jobs. The Main Street Alliance and Small Business Majority’s new report, “The Clean Air Act’s Economic Benefits: Past, Present and Future,” shows that for every dollar in compliance costs, the U.S. economy gains $4 to $8 — a minimum 400 percent return!

The biggest economic benefits flowed into local economies in savings on energy, fuel and health costs. Air pollution limits drive efficiency improvements, reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and improving our competitiveness. Consumers and local businesses can keep money in their pockets, instead of wasting energy and paying higher health costs.

After 40 years of success, the Clean Air Act has a critical new job: Help America develop effective clean energy and climate solutions that create good paying sustainable jobs.

In Montana, we can’t wait any longer to implement solutions. Glaciers, snowpack — our natural storage tanks — are shrinking, threatening water for farming and ranching and our $3 billion tourism and recreation industries. Forest pests usually killed off by deep winter freezes run rampant. Dead trees — fuel for the next big fires — are everywhere. As fires burn and temperatures rise, so do the threats of increased respiratory diseases.

We know what’s causing climate change — primarily pollution from fossil fuels, and we can fix it by investing in clean energy — the biggest new driver for job growth. Montana has abundant untapped supplies. As growing clean energy businesses, we’re ready to develop clean energy solutions that create jobs and boost local economic development. But we need fair limits on pollution to allow Montana’s homegrown clean energy to compete on a level playing field.

Climate pollution is completely unrestricted and extremely costly. Dead trees, shrinking glaciers, and the high price of importing oil takes a big toll on Montana’s economy, costing Montanans a bundle because polluters dump as much as they want for free — one giant public subsidy for fossil fuel, an unfair, anticompetitive handicap for clean energy.

Coal is responsible for over a third of climate pollution nationwide. To be competitive in its own right, it must deal with its climate pollution, instead of just passing off the costs.

There’s little incentive to develop technologies to dispose of carbon emissions if climate pollution is free. With responsible limits on pollution, we’ll have a fair and open competition between fossil fuels and clean energy with winners and losers emerging based on their own merits.

Naturally, fossil fuel interests prefer to continue their public subsidy. But that’s wrong: it endangers public health, harms agriculture, and stifles the competition that will allow Montana and America to develop new, cleaner energy to repower our economy and deliver good, sustainable, domestic jobs. The new requirements will not affect hospitals, small farms, convenience stores, schools, homes and small businesses in Montana.

The Environmental Protection Agency is finally moving forward to limit climate pollution and position the American economy for development of climate solutions. As fossil fuel lobbyists fight to protect their unfair competitive advantage by challenging EPA’s Clean Air Act authority to address carbon pollution, tell Congress to support fair competition and public health by standing behind the Clean Air Act. It’s good for Montanans. It’s good for business. It’s OUR Big Sky, let’s work together to protect it.

Carolyn Villa works with wind energy in Billings. Randy Hafer and Mike Tuss are Billings architects. They wrote this column in collaboration with Montana ranchers and other business people, including, Peggy Beltrone of Great Falls, Scott Johnson, Wendy Weaver and Pete Strom of Bozeman; and Jim Baerg of Livingston.


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