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Read what Representative Susan Fisher and other state representatives have to say about the carbon limits for future power plants in their opinion editorial (see below). Pay special attention to their comments about Secretary John Skvarla, head of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Form your opinion and then write a letter to the editor that is no more than 200 words and e-mail to letters@citizen-times.com or submit online http://www.citizen-times.com/viewint/article/99999999/SERVICE/70305038/Submit-Letter-Editor

Climate threat is real, state’s response sad

The science on climate change is settled. It is happening and pollution from burning fossil fuels is a big part of the cause. Scientists from the U.S. and around the world are confident that manmade pollution is causing the Earth’s climate to change. Here in North Carolina, we’ve already begun to feel the impacts. Sea levels are rising, making coastal storms more destructive and threatening to leave the Outer Banks underwater.

Last summer, massive flooding and extreme weather took lives and destroyed crops and property all across the state. North of Charlotte, flooding along the Catawba River was some of the worst in 70 years. It is these extreme weather events that scientists warn could become even more frequent and severe if we do not reduce our global warming pollution.

As these extreme weather events threaten our communities and health today, it will be future generations who will pay the real price of our inaction. With carbon persisting in our atmosphere for thousands of years, our continued dumping of carbon pollution may leave a world that will be much different than our own.

Thankfully, efforts are underway to limit the pollution fueling climate change. EPA introduced a rule to regulate carbon pollution from new power plants. This coming June they are expected to introduce a similar rule to regulate carbon from existing power plants. Given that power plants are the nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, accounting for 40 percent of the total carbon pollution in the country, this is a critical step toward mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Here in North Carolina, that percentage is even greater with power plants accounting for more than half of the state’s total carbon pollution. This should come as no surprise since North Carolina is home to five of the 50 dirtiest power plants in the country.

With thousands of tons of toxic coal ash now flowing through the Dan River after it was spilled from a coal ash pond two weeks ago, we were reminded that our reliance on coal and fossil fuels in general doesn’t just fuel global warming but poses multiple threats to our environment and health. As the damage is assessed, we begin to understand that these threats are both immediate and long term.

One would hope that those charged with protecting North Carolina’s environment would be among the first to embrace these efforts. Unfortunately, Secretary John Skvarla, head of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, recently sent a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy questioning the Obama administration’s standing to limit the carbon pollution that is fueling climate change. While we are not surprised, we cannot help but be disappointed. Unlike Skvarla, we see the Obama administration’s efforts to regulate carbon pollution as an opportunity, not a hindrance.

Limiting the impacts of climate change means our coastal and mountain communities can continue to be tourist destinations, bringing billions of dollars into our economy. It means our Christmas tree farms can continue growing trees that are exported all around the country. It means our children will not have to pay the price of a climate much different than our own.

Moving away from fossil fuels can also create new jobs in industries like solar and offshore wind. North Carolina is uniquely positioned to take advantage of these types of opportunities. We have more offshore wind potential than any Atlantic state. In fact, according to a study by UNC, we have enough offshore wind potential to power our entire state.

And North Carolina is leading the way on solar power. Last year our state ranked second in terms of solar capacity added, beating sun-drenched states like Arizona and Nevada. Jobs in the clean energy industry were up 20 percent when compared to 2012 and companies like FLS, Sundance Systems and Strata, which install solar panels throughout the state, are increasing their workforce to keep up with the growing demand for clean energy.

Instead of hindering efforts at protecting our health and environment and growing our clean energy economy, Skvarla should champion efforts to regulate carbon pollution, and help North Carolina take advantage of this new energy economy.

North Carolina has a choice, we can keep our heads in the sand and deny climate change, or we can seize the opportunities it presents us. Given our history of innovation and entrepreneurism, it seems a shame that Skvarla has decided to choose the former.

Rep. Susan Fisher, D-114, represents Buncombe County; Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-57, represents Guilford County; Rep. Rick Glazier, D-44, represents Cumberland County.

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