Wednesday, June 04, 2014

In Debate Over Coal, Looking to Lessons of ’90s Tobacco Fight

By JONATHAN WEISMAN, NYT
JUNE 3, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulation of power plant emissions signals the beginning of a fight over coal and climate change. Any chance of a resolution is likely to depend on the combatants agreeing to a reduction in emissions in exchange for help to coal-dependent regions and assistance to workers struggling with higher energy costs.

In that way, the so-called War on Coal is reminiscent of the War on Tobacco during the 1990s. Then, federal and state officials keyed in on a widely reviled product pulled from the earth in some of the nation’s poorest regions, intent on regulating it to minimize its health effects and societal damage. A truce took hold in large part because workers dependent on it for their livelihoods — and the lawmakers intent on defending it — were compensated.

“We really were looking for a way to reimburse the states for the payments they were making for people hurt by disease, and to help the states that would be impacted most negatively if demand dropped” for tobacco, said Richard Blumenthal, a leader in the fight against tobacco as attorney general of Connecticut and now a Democratic senator. “There is absolutely a way to do it again, and in the long run, those regions would be much healthier financially and economically to be less dependent on one product, especially a product of finite quantity in the ground, than to continue to eat, live and breathe coal.”

(More here.)

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