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EPA Releases Carbon Cutting Plan; Swing State Voters Seem Receptive

President Barack Obama is hoping to boost renewable energy through the EPA's new Clean Power Plan.
Thecyrgroup via Wikimedia commons

This week the Environmental Protection Agency announced the final draft of its Clean Power Plan—a new set of rules aimed at lowering carbon emissions from power plants.  Supporters and opponents break along familiar lines, but new polling suggests Florida voters may be on the side of reform.

Over the weekend a video started making the rounds on Facebook feeds.  Maybe you saw it. 

It opens with a satellite images of the Northwest corner of Washington state, and President Barack Obama saying, “Our climate is changing.  It’s changing in ways that threaten our economy, our security and our health.”

He’s touting what his administration is calling the Clean Power Plan.  So far as highlights, the initiative will reduce carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, by placing new limits on power plant emissions.  The president says the regulation will help spur growth in renewable energy and the resulting reduction in smog will have major health benefits across the country.

Later in the video, Obama says, “We’ve been working with states and power companies to make sure they’ve got the flexibility they need to cut this pollution.”

But Rep. Ray Rodrigues (R-Estero) takes issue with that.  He filed a memorial bill in the last legislative session urging Congress to block the president’s proposed plan. 

“What motivated the memorial more than anything is it was an example of federal overreach,” Rodrigues says.  “Historically the EPA has used the Clean Air Act to regulate outputs.”

Rodrigues says the Clean Power Plan is an attempt to extend that authority to a power plant’s inputs—effectively ruling out power sources like coal.  He worries this could make Florida too reliant on natural gas, and more importantly, fluctuations in the natural gas market.  

The plan, which the EPA introduced in June 2014, took public comment until December last year but Rodrigues believes the specific benchmarks lack transparency.

“The EPA formulated the goals that have been given to the states in secret,” Rodrigues argues.  “They formulated the goals themselves behind closed doors, they handed them to the states and there’s no rhyme or reason to the goals they’ve set.”

But recent surveys conducted by Public Policy Polling in eight battleground states suggest the president’s proposal has substantial support.  Here’s poll Director Tom Jensen.

“63 percent of voters support it across those eight swing states,” Jensen says.  “Only 35 percent oppose it.”

But more important than the overall numbers, Jensen says it’s drawing a surprising amount of support among Republican voters—44 percent approve of the plan. 

“And what we found in Florida,” Jensen continues, “was that voters there were even more overwhelmingly in supportive of this stuff than they were in the battleground states as a whole.”

“In Florida, 66 percent of voters support this plan—only 31 percent are opposed to it,” Jensen says.  “In Florida, we actually found a plurality of republicans in support of the plan, 50 to 49.”

Jensen says the results indicate presidential candidates hoping to win swing states would do well to embrace a plan addressing climate change.   

But it’s not necessarily clear what those results mean for the rule itself.   That’s because the Clean Power Plan relies on states developing individual paths for reduction.  In the past, Florida has been game for long and rancorous fights against new EPA regulations.  And some—Rep. Rodrigues among them—expect the state to join a court challenge of the rule.

Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.