COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio lawmakers are expected to quickly act to try to limit the impact of sweeping new federal plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants almost a third by 2030.
The rule announced Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a key part of President Barack Obama's plans to reduce pollution linked to global warming. Under the proposal, states may get several years to submit plans to cut power plant pollution.
In Ohio, a state bill that has bipartisan support would require that any power-plant plan Ohio submits to the federal government protect the affordability and reliability of electricity and minimize effects on industrial, commercial and residential consumers. A committee of lawmakers is scheduled to vote on the measure Tuesday, and it is likely to be considered by the full House soon thereafter.
"It's kind of a delicate dance because the Ohio EPA has to reconcile itself to what the federal EPA is doing," said the bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Andy Thompson of Marietta. "But within that context, we just want to make sure that Ohio asserts the control that we can."
Thompson said it is destructive to the Appalachian communities he represents in eastern Ohio every time a coal-fired power plant shuts down because the area remains heavily dependent on coal jobs.
Ohio gets 70 percent of its electricity from coal. Last week, lawmakers voted to put the state's renewable and advanced energy standards on hold for two years as a legislative committee studies the issue.
The targets were enacted under then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat from Appalachia who lost a re-election bid in 2010. His successor, Republican John Kasich, has said he'll sign a bill calling for the targets to be frozen.
Strickland, who now leads the advocacy arm of a Washington think tank, said before the new federal plan was released that he thinks it is achievable and necessary for creating a healthier environment. But he said he will urge the Obama administration and Congress to be sensitive to the proposal's effects on coal mine and power plant employees and their communities.
"I know there's going to be cries of doom and gloom," said Strickland, president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. "Utilities are going to say it's going to cost us so much money and rates are going to go up, and, you know, we're going to hear the same kind of special interests complaining that usually accompanies any effort to improve our environment in any way."