Chattanooga officials, the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations are so happy about the EPA's new clean power plan they are throwing a party.
But not all in city or state government are pleased with the new rules aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants.
On Monday, the Environment Protection Agency put in place its new rules. The rules, for the first time ever, set limits to how much carbon dioxide power producers can release.
* What: Cool Down ChattTown Festival to support the Clean Power Plan and celebrate the community’s sustainability efforts.
* When: today from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
* Where: Highland Park Commons, 2000 Union Ave.
* Who: Aaron Mair, president of the Sierra Club, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and other community leaders
President Barack Obama announced the new rules months ago, much to the dismay of Congressional Republicans.
But now, the are in stone. To celebrate, city officials and a gang of environment-minded supporters will flock to the 2nd annual Cool Down ChattTown Festival today, which starts at 10 a.m. at Highland Park Commons, 2000 Union Ave., in Chattanooga.
Chris Lunghino, Tennessee organizer for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, said the new carbon limits won't be too much of a strain for the Volunteer state, largely because the Tennessee Valley Authority has already retired many of its older coal-fired power plants. And because TVA and the state would be credited for the opening of Watt's Bar Unit 2 later this year, the first new nuclear reactor of the 21st Century.
So this is a great time for Tennessee to raise the bar, Lunghino said.
"Now we look to Gov. [Bill] Haslam to seize this opportunity to write a strong state plan that exceeds the target and takes advantage of the Clean Power Plan early action incentives through early and aggressive deployment of renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency programs," she said.
Chattanooga City Council members in June voted to support the EPA's plan, joining cities such as Nashville, Knoxville, Austin, Texas, and Portland, Maine.
Councilman Chris Anderson said Friday the city didn't control any power plants, but it was still important to support the new rules.
"The new EPA rules are going to mean a cleaner and safer environment for everyone. I'm glad that Chattanooga was recently named the city that had improved its air quality the most in the United States, and I think our elected leaders should support continued movement in that direction," Anderson said.
However, one councilman is regretting that support.
Chip Henderson, who initially voted in favor of the resolution, said Friday he wished he could take his vote back.
He said he hadn't taken enough time to consider the new EPA rules and how they could impact the economy.
"I think I even asked the question then, why we as a city council were even dealing with this. For one, I don't feel like it is a city issue," he said.
He said at the time, clean air rules seemed like a nice thing. But he's concerned they could cause energy prices to increase.
"What we don't want to do is turn around and start slowing down an economy that's trying its best to recover," Henderson said.
Also, nearly 20 state lawmakers asked Attorney General Herbert Slatery this week to challenge the EPA rules to keep them from happening.
In a letter they said carbon dioxide was a byproduct of respiration, and a necessary compound for life to flourish, not a pollutant. Further they, too, said the new rules would cause energy prices to spike.
"As Tennesseans who rely on the accessibility of affordable, dependable electricity, we cannot allow a runaway federal agency to destroy the economic development of our state," the letter states.
Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, was among them. McCormick did not return a phone call from a reporter Friday afternoon.
Contact Louie Brogdon at firstname.lastname@example.org, @glbrogdoniv on Twitter or at 423-757-6481.