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April 18, 2014

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Court decision, carbon rules help state all around

On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that the federal government, specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, had the responsibility to control industrial carbon pollution. The decision was in response to a petition by 12 states; three cities; an American territory; and 13 conservation groups, including the Sierra Club.

On the opposite side of the argument were the Bush administration; the car- and truck-making industry; 10 states; and utilities that generated tons of the carbon emissions, mostly through burning coal. Of particular concern by those opposed to carbon emissions are the direct impacts to human health, particularly the health of children, from lung and heart disease as well as the overwhelming evidence that the volume of industrial carbon pollution in the air is profoundly changing the climate all over the world.

The court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA was a landmark in environmental law and has led to a decision last month by the EPA to limit the amount of carbon that could be generated by new coal-fired power plants. Media analysts from left and right are predicting that the most recent EPA rule-making decision spells the ultimate end of Big Coal as utilities turn to cleaner, cheaper sources for energy.

In the five years since the Supreme Court made its ruling, Nevada has moved faster than many other states to accommodate a new regulatory situation. Simply put, we’ve got a lot to be proud of and our moves have helped generate thousands of jobs and contributed to a healthier environment.

Since 2007:

• Nevada has created a climate registry to track our state’s climate emissions.

• The state has set a goal of 25 percent of electricity to be generated through renewable energy by 2025 — a goal that electric utility NV Energy executives insist is the minimum, not the ceiling, for clean energy production.

• A Clark County municipal utility, the Southern Nevada Water Authority, has warned of the danger created by carbon-related climate disruption to our water supply from the Colorado River.

• Plans for three coal-fired generating plants have been scrapped in our state.

• A bipartisan commission has been established to encourage even more renewable energy production in Nevada.

Despite the important moves in Nevada to confront industrial carbon pollution, it is still a problem. It is a profoundly important health issue. Exposure to carbon pollution of any source strongly correlates with asthma and other respiratory diseases and health problems, especially in children. For proof, sadly, we only have to look to the Moapa Band of Paiutes, downwind of the Reid-Gardner coal plant in Clark County, where children’s asthma and other health problems are rampant. Ask the Moapa Paiutes if industrial carbon pollution is a health issue. They know it is.

And eventually, we are all downwind of coal plants.

The EPA has done the right thing by addressing new sources of industrial carbon pollution in the rules issued in March, but as with any important public policy change, there will be substantial resistance by those who profit from dumping carbon into the atmosphere. We must urge the EPA to stand strong against attacks on the rules and urge our elected representatives in Congress to avoid attacks on the EPA’s scientists and their rule-making authority.

Tick Segerblom is a Democratic assemblyman from Las Vegas.

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  1. Assemblyman Segerblom is completely correct. Carbon pollution is a serious human health concern wherever you are in the world, and the EPA has taken an important first step in controlling this threat to the health of cour communities.

  2. The Assemblyman is completely wrong and is part of the problem, not the solution.

    The EPA has become a far too powerful rogue agency and must be reigned in.

    Liberty, individual rights and property rights mean nothing to the EPA.

  3. Thomas Delahunty,

    You are correct that the EPA has no respect for the "liberty" of global corporate industries that want to pollute and kill millions of Nevadans just so they can squeeze a slightly more obscene profit margin out of the middle class.

    The EPA does care about individual rights which is EXACTLY why they are trying to protect MY individual rights to clean air.

    You, like most people lacking critical thinking skills, are trying to over reach your own understanding of large words. Please try to at least understand the concepts you are extolling before hen pecking out angry rants. Screaming that everything you don't understand is against "Liberty, Freedom & Justice" just makes you look like another fool.

    We appreciate your attempt to add to the conversation though!

  4. Thank you Assemblyman Segerblom! You do the public a favor by calling attention to the real crisis facing our state, nation and planet - that of significant, and long lasting climate change and the very serious threats it brings to human existence. Threats such as extreme weather events, diminished water supplies, desertification of formerly habitable lands, inundation of coastal areas, spread of tropical and other diseases, increased wildfires, and on and on. Anyone paying attention to the news knows we are already experiencing the beginning of these events and they will get worse.

  5. So correct, Tick. We're all downwind. The answer is blowin' in the wind.

  6. Science deniers & anti-regulatory Corporate cheerleaders...

    Tell us again how, in the face of economic uncertainty, 'we need to suspend all this nonsense because it's not pro-growth and costs good paying jobs'...
    I am sure the 'downwinders will understand that huge corporate profits trump the health of their children all day everyday (and twice on Sundays).