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A Huge Show of Public Support for the Power Plant Carbon Standard

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Last week the EPA held two public hearings for the recently announced draft carbon standard for new power plants. The public outpouring of support was truly impressive. Hundreds of people turned out in Washington D.C. and Chicago to show their support for this standard. And, so far, more than 1.4 million people have written in comments in favor of it.

Along with several of my colleagues and many concerned citizens, I had the opportunity to testify in support of the standard at the hearing in Washington, DC. UCS public health experts Dr. Jalonne White-Newsome and Elizabeth Martin Perera also testified, highlighting the serious public health risks that climate change poses.

Testifying at the EPA hearing in Washington; Credit: UCS

Dr. White-Newsome spoke from personal experience:

“I have watched my grandparents, now in their 80s and 90s, who have lived in Detroit, Michigan, my hometown, for over 60 years, struggle with multiple chronic diseases, and most recently, deal with two extremely hot summers where they literally struggled to breathe in their own home. We know that climate change will make our summers hotter and increase the intensity of heat waves. The EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standard for new power plants, and future standards that will limit carbon pollution from existing sources, will help protect Americans, like my grandparents, from the impacts of climate change.”

In addition, UCS released a letter from public health professionals to policymakers in support of the EPA’s actions to address climate change under the Clean Air Act. If you are a doctor, nurse or public health professional and would like to sign on to this letter, please go here.

A lunchtime press conference and roundtable event drew over a hundred people who wanted to stand up in support of the EPA’s clean air act standards. Among them were folks from Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign and the Mom’s Clean Air Force.

Press Conference in Washington, DC; Credit: UCS

My colleague Jean Sideris sent this report from the hearing in Chicago:

The Chicago EPA hearing was truly an energizing and inspiring event—reminding us all of the enormous support for climate action and the incredible number of people who took time out of their lives to speak at the hearing—including people from all over Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Moms, dads, grandparents, doctors, scientists, engineers, and faith leaders told their personal stories and expressed support for the standards. But it didn’t end there: Nearly every person called on the EPA to go further—limit emissions from existing power plants, tighten standards for new power plants, and continue to reduce emissions from cars and trucks.

UCS staff at the Chicago hearing; Credit: UCS

Around mid-morning at the Chicago hearing, a group of about 20 people showed up wearing pro-coal t-shirts that said “America Counts on Coal.” Well, it turns out they were each offered $50 to wear those shirts and appear at the hearings. The Craiglist ad was taken down, but you can see it on the Sierra Club blog. Meanwhile, the testimony in support of the rule continued to be the dominant message in front of the EPA. The constant presence of bright blue shirts with “I love Clean Air” and “Protect our health, not big polluters” helped to demonstrate the widespread support for the standards.

A lunchtime press conference demonstrated the widespread support from local Chicago groups for the EPA rules. A local alderman, faith leader, health group, labor, and community leaders all expressed their concern over a warming world and thanked the EPA for taking this first step. The speakers were flanked by supporters in bright blue shirts and signs.

To give you a flavor of the event, here are some selected quotes from the speakers:

Alderman Danny Solis of the 25th ward said, “The most effective way to address pollution quickly is for the EPA to set comprehensive carbon pollution emission regulations.”

Chicago Alderman Danny Solis speaks in support of the carbon standard; Credit: UCS

“Clean energy standards are already creating jobs in Michigan and around the country,” said Bryan Grochowski, a member of Service Employees International Union Local 517 in Michigan who testified at the Chicago hearing. “We need smart policies and investments to continue that growth. This proposed standard will spur innovation in clean energy technologies, which will create more of these good jobs that are also good for our environment.”

Brian Urbaszewski, the director of environmental health programs at Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, said the rising temperatures take a toll on public health. “The new standard would help protect public health by reducing smog from carbon pollution.”

Rev. Clare Butterfield, the executive director of Faith in Place and the Illinois Interfaith Power & Light Campaign, said, “People in the faith community are supporting this first-ever limit on the global warming pollution from power plants because we see it as part of our religious responsibility to care for creation,” said Butterfield. “We are here as stewards for our grandchildren, and for the one who placed us here.”

The comment period for the carbon standard runs through June 25, so don’t forget to weigh in with your support.

Posted in: Energy, Global Warming Tags: ,

About the author: Rachel Cleetus is an expert on the design and economic evaluation of climate and energy policies, as well as the costs of climate change. She holds a Ph.D. in economics. See Rachel's full bio.

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  • Deborah Finn

    There is no downside to addressing power plant emissions and the toxic effects they have on humans. We have known about this for decades and ignoring the problem has only resulted in worsening of global climate conditions. The time is now to act before we reach a tipping point from which we will be hardpressed to return our planet’s equilibrium.

  • jill harmrer

    Various reports show that people who live near known toxic air emissions get higher rates of cancer. Also asthmatics suffer more when air is polluted. We need good regulation of factories that emit pollutants. Eventuaklkly the water that is polluted gets to all of us. We need the EP
    A to set standards.

    • http://www.ucsusa.org/news/experts/rachel-cleetus.html Rachel Cleetus

      Jill, thank you for your comment. Pollution from coal-fired power does indeed create numerous health and environmental problems (see this study:
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05890.x/full for example). Regulating harmful pollutants (including NOx, SO2, mercury and other toxics and CO2) are a key part of transforming our energy system into a cleaner, more sustainable one.

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