Head of EPA outlines plan in Aspen to regulate carbon from power plants | AspenTimes.com

Head of EPA outlines plan in Aspen to regulate carbon from power plants

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy gave a press conference in frigid conditions at the base of Aspen Mountain Thursday to talk about climate change.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said during a visit to Aspen yesterday that she doesn’t believe Congress will derail plans for groundbreaking regulation of carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“As you probably see, the president is very sure on this issue,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said. “He knows that Congress has given us the authority and the responsibility to do this, so I know the president has our back in terms of making sure that he protects his authority and ours, and we’ll move it forward and we’ll get these things done.”

The EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan in June in conjunction with the White House. The plan will be the first-ever effort to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants, which account for about one-third of all domestic greenhouse-gas emissions. The administration’s goal is to reduce carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent by 2030.

But Republican leadership in Congress has vowed to block the effort to implement the regulations. McCarthy’s confidence about moving ahead stems from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night.

“No challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change,” he said.

McCarthy echoed those sentiments Thursday during a whirlwind tour of Aspen led by professional snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler. They visited Aspen Middle School students and athletes competing at the Winter X Games at Buttermilk. McCarthy dined on Aspen Mountain with Aspen Skiing Co. executives and other officials in a closed, informal gathering. And — in a scenario the climate change deniers would love — she gave an outdoor news conference in frigid temperatures at the base of Aspen Mountain.

McCarthy thanked a nonprofit organization called Protect Our Winters for inviting her to Aspen during the X Games to talk about climate change. Protect Our Winters enlists winter sports athletes and representatives of winter-dependent industries to speak on climate-change issues. Bleiler and fellow Aspenite Chris Davenport are among Protect Our Winters representatives.

McCarthy said it is critical for younger generations to show leadership on addressing climate change.

“We are facing some big challenges, and if we do that together, we can make some tremendous progress,” she said. “They have a reach that I don’t and they have a message that I can’t give.”

She also credited Skico for being a corporate leader on climate issues. In an introduction of McCarthy, Skico President and Chief Executive Officer Mike Kaplan noted that if the planet warms at the projected levels, pinyon trees will be growing at the top of Highland Bowl by year 2100. That’s at an elevation of 12,392 and more than 1,000 feet above the current treeline of spruce. Pinyon pine tress are associated with much lower elevations. In other words, the climate will change drastically.

“Obviously, climate change puts us out of business,” Kaplan said. He later added, “The ski business will be the least of our worries.”

When McCarthy took the podium, she said it is very legitimate to be concerned about the ski industry. Climate change is as much about protecting the economy as it is preserving the environment, she said. Snow-based recreation pumps $67 billion per year into the national economy, she said, and it generates 900,000 jobs.

That is threatened by climate change, McCarthy said, noting that 2014 was the warmest on record for the planet, and the past three decades have been the warmest, each progressively warmer than the other.

“Let’s get off our butts, let’s work together, let’s start taking action,” McCarthy said. “These guys (at Protect Our Winters) are going to reach the young people, I’m going to keep yapping at the older ones, somebody’s going to get the middle and we’re going to make things happen.”