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Area's future at stake in speed of transition to clean energy

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By Jim Sakolosky
Guest Columnist

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Last year Gov. Roy Cooper entered an executive order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent statewide by 2025. He formed a Climate Change Interagency Council to recommend specific actions to achieve the goal. The Interagency Council held public meetings in Elizabeth City on Feb. 19 and April 11 to seek comments about ways to transition to clean energy and to provide updated information about actions the council is considering.

Under the current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, the Union of Concerned Scientists projects that the Atlantic Ocean will rise 4 feet by 2100, causing the southern half of Pasquotank County to be chronically flooded. If sea level rise is limited to 2 feet, no chronic flooding is projected.

The key to limiting rise of the Atlantic Ocean is a speedy transition to clean energy. I suggest Gov. Cooper should, at a bare minimum, take the following actions:

* Support the Energy Innovation and Dividend Act. The Energy Innovation and Dividend Act, recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, would impose a fee on carbon and distribute the proceeds on a monthly basis to all Americans. The act is bipartisan, would reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in the first 12 years, create 2.1 million jobs, grow the national economy, and improve health and save lives by reducing pollution. Governor Cooper should work diligently to convince all of North Carolina’s elected representatives to vote for the bill.

* Push for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency tax credits. Governor Cooper should work with the state Legislature to adopt new clean energy and energy efficiency tax credits. A rapid transition to clean energy will require energy efficiency improvements and the installation of solar power in residential and commercial buildings as well as government buildings.

* Seek environmental justice. Lower-income communities often suffer the worst effects of pollution, floods and natural disasters. Governor Cooper should fight for passage of legislation in North Carolina to ensure that all communities receive equal protection from the effects of climate change and equal benefits for all measures implemented. For example, if tax credits for solar power and energy efficiency improvements are enacted, low-cost financing or other mechanisms should ensure that low-income communities have comparable opportunities to benefit by clean energy upgrades.

* Oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline will lock in an estimated 30 million to 68 million metric tons per year of C02 emissions for the lifetime of the project. If it is built, measures implemented via the executive order will largely go toward canceling greenhouse gases caused by the pipeline.

The pipeline is now stalled by court orders. Costs are escalating. Clean energy is cost competitive with fossil fuels and will soon have a cost advantage. Development of clean power instead of the ACP would create more jobs for North Carolinians, generate no greenhouse gases, improve health and safety by improving air quality, and protect North Carolina’s waters and aquatic species.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report and the 2018 U.S. Federal Climate Assessment warn that immediate and decisive action is needed now to reduce greenhouse gases. It is time for Gov. Cooper to say: “No new fossil fuel infrastructure will be built on my watch.”

The future of Pasquotank County could be significantly affected by Gov. Cooper’s actions under the executive order. Written comments may still be submitted to the Interagency Council. Local residents should take this opportunity to make their voices heard. Comments may be sent to Sharon Martin, Public Information Officer via email at sharonmartin@ncdenr.gov or online at deq.nc.gov.

Jim Sakolosky is a resident of Elizabeth City.

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