Big Payoff for US EPA Climate Protection Partnerships

EPA Climate Protection PartnershipsThe Environmental Protection Agency has just released its annual Climate Protection Partnerships report, and it indicates that the U.S. is in a strong position to achieve economic growth – in other words, job growth – as it transitions to safer, healthier and more sustainable forms of energy. The report comes on top of great news for job growth in the solar industry, with as-yet untapped offshore wind energy and vast reserves of geothermal energy offering potential for even greater growth in the green jobs sector.

That’s something to keep in mind as the battle over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline gathers a new head of steam. Now that the State Department has delivered a required environmental report, it has to move forward and consult with other U.S. agencies to consider a variety of potential impacts the project could have on the public, and that includes economic impacts.

The 2012 Climate Protection Partnerships Report

The latest year for which statistics are available is 2012, hence the formal title of the report, “EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs Climate Protection Partnerships 2012 Annual Report.”

The report highlights the achievements of EPA partnerships with more than 21,000 organizations, impacting millions of individuals with new clean energy and energy efficiency programs, including the ENERGY STAR and Green Power Partnership programs.

Here’s a taste of the results for 2012:

  1. Prevention of 365 million metric tons of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (about the same emissions from electricity used by 50 million homes).
  2. A $26 billion savings on utility bills with and assist from ENERGY STAR.
  3. Emissions equal to the electricity used by more than 10 million homes prevented by methane and fluourinated greenhouse-gas-program partners, using tools and resources developed by EPA.
  4. The Green Power Partnership, a voluntary program launched back in 2001, included more than 1,400 organizations with a combined commitment of approximately 29 billion kilowatt-hours of green power annually.
  5. Another 2001 voluntary initiative, the Combined Heat and Power Partnership, included more than 450 partners with more than 5,700 megawatts of new combined heat and power installed.

Climate protection and economic growth

The Climate Protection Partnerships predate and support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which was announced in June 2013. In fact, some elements of the program go back 20 years including at least two launched during the Bush administration.

As for the consistency of that timeline, in an introduction to the new report EPA Chief Gina McCarthy points out that compliance with the Clean Air Act has been an overall winner for the U.S. economy:

…Every dollar we’ve invested to comply with the Clean Air Act has returned $4 to $8 in economic benefits. A clean and healthy environment lays the foundation for a strong, sustainable economy.”

You can see that reflected in the EPA’s top-ranked Green Power Partners.  Along with government agencies and academic institutions, the quarterly list of 100 percent green power users (including purchased offsets) boasts healthy representation from the private sector including Intel, Whole Foods, Staples, Herman Miller, and of course, the Empire State Building.

With winter sports upon us, let’s also note that the National Hockey League was the first pro sports league to join the Green Power Partnership, with support from the National Resources Defense Council for its efforts to preserve a hockey-friendly climate in the U.S.

In that regard, McCarthy draws a stark picture of the devastating economic consequences of inaction:

Scientists have observed changes in precipitation, rising sea level, melting ice and altered weather patterns, including more frequent and intense storms…These changes come with devastating consequences and real economic costs to Americans. Last year alone, the second costliest year ever recorded in terms of disasters, the U.S. endured 11 different weather and climate events with estimated losses exceeding $1 billion each.”

That’s not even counting the economic fallout from recent fossil fuel-related disasters — such as the Kalamazoo River diluted bitumen spill in Michigan, the long-term damage to Louisiana ecosystems from oil industry infrastructure, and the West Virgina chemical spill, which involved a compound used to prepare coal.

Add California’s ongoing and devastating drought this year, and you have a compelling case for aggressive action.

Tina writes frequently for Triple Pundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.

One response

  1. Hmmm. Not sure you want to be so quick to champion the Green Power Partnership. It’s true the EPA has done a lot of solid work to stop the climate change disaster. But this particular program basically allows power companies to ask customers to pay higher rates for “clean energy.” In 2007, 60 percent of the money raised this way lined the pockets of Georgia Power’s marketing department and administration. See the article titled “Green Power: Buyer Beware.” In fact, I’ve written a petition asking the EPA to put more teeth into the Green Power Partnership and make it mean something. If you agree, I hope you will sign it:

Leave a Reply