Davis condemns new EPA proposed policy

Rep. Rodney Davis, R-13, released a statement on Sep. 20 condemning an announcement made by the Environmental Protection Agency regarding new standards for carbon emissions for power plants. The standards, proposed by the EPA, would only affect new power plants.

According to the proposal, new coal-burning power plants would have to capture about 40 percent of their carbon dioxide emissions.

In his statement, Davis called the proposal a “war on coal and a war on jobs” in Illinois. He said he’s concerned that although the proposed standards only apply to new power plants, the EPA could turn its attention toward existing plants.

“This rule totally ignores the fact that today’s coal-fired power plants are exponentially more advanced, cleaner and more efficient than those of just a few years ago,” he said. “It’s very clear that once the EPA sets rules for new power plants, it will turn its attention to rules for existing power plants, which is an extremely dangerous path for America’s energy future and independence.”

Andrew Flach, Davis’ communication director, said in an email that Davis’ opposition is related to the availability of the equipment needed to uphold the standards.

“The proposal would require new coal-fired power plants to install commercially unavailable equipment to limit emissions,” he said. “Again, this equipment cannot be obtained, so it’s a ban on new coal-fired plants — a real gamble on our economic and energy future.”

Members of the registered student organization Students for Environmental Concerns (SECS) have been working on the movement away from coal to natural gas-powered plants on the University’s campus. Peter Whitney, junior in ACES, and Drew O’Bryan, junior in Engineering and LAS, are currently co-leaders of the Beyond Coal campaign within SECS.

The campaign started as the Coal Group in 2009, and its mission of getting the University off of coal was successful. The Illinois Climate Action Plan was passed in 2011, and the University promised to stop burning coal at Abbott Power Plant by 2017.

Steve Breitwieser, the media communications specialist at Abbott, said the plant has been able to reduce coal consumption by almost 50 percent since 2009. In regards to switching to natural gas, Breitwieser said that a plan is still being set.

“A utilities master plan is currently being completed,” he said. “The utilities master plan is studying this issue and will provide options and recommendations that will be used as a basis for future planning.”

The success of Beyond Coal’s first campaign led the group to focus on the divestment movement.

“Essentially, our project is working to get the University of Illinois — which is all three campuses, Champaign-Urbana, Chicago and Springfield — to divest, or to remove their investments from the ‘Filthy 15’ coal utility and mining companies,” Whitney said. “The Illinois Student Senate, which is technically the voice of the student body here at Illinois, has voted yes on a divestment proposal, which has been largely ignored by the University administration and Board of Trustees.”

Right now, those advocating the campaign are working to apply pressure to the Board of Trustees through various actions on campus and by “building (their) base,” O’Bryan said. He added that there was some truth to Davis’ statement, though maybe not in the way that was intended.

“I think that Representative Davis is honestly right when he says that it’s a war on coal,” O’Bryan said. “But it’s not a war on the workers, it’s a war on the coal industry and the tactics that the coal industry uses in targeting … and polluting the air, the water (and) the people around.”

Though he did not completely agree with Davis’ statement, Whitney said that it was an understandable viewpoint.

“A big part of the environmental movement is trying to make people like Rep. Davis understand that it’s not a war on employees, it’s not a war on workers, it’s not a war on jobs,” he said. “We’re trying to create more jobs, we’re trying to create a better future for everybody.”

Eleanor can be reached at [email protected]