Report reveals W.Va. carbon emissions
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The White House, in continuing its pitch to fight carbon pollution, blames climate change for the large number of droughts, flooding and even asthma and Lyme disease in West Virginia over the last few years.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday delivered a speech about climate change, vowing his administration would "put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution."
According to a West Virginia-specific report released by the White House on Wednesday, state power plants and industrial facilities emitted more than 85 million metric tons of carbon pollution into the air in 2011, about as much as 18 million cars.
The report said increased incidence of droughts, crop damage, flooding, mudslides, landslides, and some diseases could be caused by those greenhouse gases, which are believed to trap heat in the earth's atmosphere and increase the planet's temperature.
"This is not just a high-level national problem. It's a local problem as well, impacting real people who are experiencing real pain," Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday.
Droughts in 2010 led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to name nine West Virginia counties as primary natural disaster areas because of damage to corn, soybean, apple and peach crops, according to the report.
The state also suffered severe storms, flooding, mudslides and landslides in March 2010, requiring more than $6.8 million in federal recovery assistance.
The report also points to the more than 3,000 asthma-related hospital admissions in 2011 and 128 cases of Lyme disease in 2010 as possible side effects of climate change. Changes in temperature and weather patterns can affect insect populations.
"Although we cannot say that climate change is responsible for any individual event, climate change is already increasing our risks from these events," the report said.
The White House also pointed to broader dangers of climate change, saying it will intensify problems like sea level rise, storm surges and intense hurricanes that already threaten coastal cities in the Southeast.
Heat-related illness and deaths, decreased farm production and fish and wildlife populations also will be affected by raising temperatures, the report said.
Talking with members of the media on Wednesday, Donovan and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said the federal government was ready to respond to the president's challenge.
He said there were more than 21,000 fires in forested areas last year, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture spent $2 billion fighting those blazes.
"This is a real issue. It's something that requires immediate attention," Vilsack said.
Donovan said the Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to save more than 100 megawatts of energy by 2020 by making federally assisted housing more efficient.
The White House report says it has supported more than 130 renewable energy projects in West Virginia since 2009, and that has generated enough electricity to power 270,000 homes.
The president's plan also includes new, strict requirements on power plants and fuel economy standards for cars.
Members of West Virginia's congressional delegation quickly condemned the plan, calling it a "war on coal."
"By shutting down the production of coal, not only will the president make it impossible for America to become energy independent but he could deliver an unrecoverable blow to coal-rich states like West Virginia," U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said in a statement issued.
Capito also called the plan part of the president's "tyrannical efforts to bankrupt the coal industry."
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