In an unprecedented move, the Obama administration Monday called for a 30 percent nationwide reduction in carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030. Hawaii Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono were quick to pledge their support for the Clean Power Plan.

Hirono stressed its importance for Hawaii residents.

“It sends a firm signal to the world that the United States is serious about addressing the growing environmental threat to our people and our livelihoods,” Hirono said.

Obama Clean Power Plan

President Barack Obama, with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, center, talks with EPA staff members who worked on the power-plant emissions standards, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 2, 2014.

White House

As the race for the Schatz’s Senate seat heats up, the Clean Power Plan has implications for not only for Hawaii’s natural environment but for the legislative landscape as well.

Schatz was one of the first Hawaii politicians to endorse the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.

“Regulating carbon through the EPA under the Clean Air Act is morally and legally the right thing to do,” Schatz said.

In supporting the Clean Power Plan, Schatz continues to align himself with energy efficiency and climate mitigation legislation. In March, he led an all-nighter on the Senate floor to raise awareness among his colleagues about climate change issues.

He also  brought former Vice President Al Gore to Hawaii as part of a climate change summit that some have called a political maneuver, considering he is in a tight race with U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa. Schatz also released a new TV spot from his campaign the same day the EPA made its announcement.

Hanabusa also expressed her support of the Clean Power Plan, saying that its goals expand upon energy efficiency efforts she has supported in the past.

“We did a lot of the heavy lifting on that back in 2009,” Hanabusa said, referring to Hawaii’s Clean Energy Initiative.  “I was proud to have played a role in helping to pass those standards for Hawaii.”

The Clean Power Plan is one of several measures proposed to grapple with the difficulties of climate change. Ensuring a better environment for future generations by improving air quality and energy efficiency are top priorities, according to the EPA.

“By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said.

Hawaii residents, especially Hawaii’s children, are affected by the air quality, with an estimated 10.9 percent suffering from asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Using 2005 emission rates as a baseline, the Clean Power Plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030.  Hawaii has been moving in that direction.

According to the EPA, in 2012 Hawaii’s CO2 emissions were estimated at 5 million metric tons from sources covered under the Clean Power Plan making Hawaii’s 2012 emission rate 1,540 pounds/megawatt hours (lbs/MWh).  By 2030, Hawaii’s goal emission rate would be 1,306 lbs/MWh.

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