Monthly Archives: May 2012

An Inside Look at EPA’s Carbon Pollution Hearing — the Chicago Report

If you already read my colleague Mandy Warner’s blog, you know that I had the great honor of representing EDF in Chicago last Thursday at one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) hearings for its first-ever proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants.   

EDF's Rob Collier testifies at EPA's Chicago hearing on carbon pollution

It was a day that will always stand out as a milestone in my life.

And, now that I’ve had the Memorial Day weekend to reflect on everything that happened, I wanted to share some of the stories I heard and the fascinating details I noticed.

Here’s what the Chicago hearing looked and felt like:

It was a day of incredible support for EPA’s efforts to control carbon pollution in America. I watched dozens of people testify, and give EPA a symbolic “standing ovation” for taking such a historic step.

In fact, there was such support around the Midwest that EPA had to open a second concurrent hearing room to accommodate all of the speakers – just like at the D.C. hearing.

(That’s no surprise. States and cities across the Midwest are carrying out homegrown clean energy solutions that strengthen economic prosperity and job creation, improve our energy security, and provide a healthier environment. You can read more in this new paper [PDF]that examines some of the clean energy policies put in place in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin — and the associated private sector economic activity.)   

Back to Chicago, and the day of the hearing:

In the early morning, the room was slow to fill up — primarily because the huge line of people who wanted to get in had to wait through delays as everyone went through a metal detector.

By about 9:00 a.m., a steady stream of people was filtering into the room from towns around Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin.

Those people were concerned citizens with a variety of backgrounds: nurses; doctors; ecologists; physicists; economists; union workers; veterans; parents; grandparents; business leaders and students.

And, almost without exception, all of these people spoke in favor of EPA’s common sense proposal to reduce the huge amount of carbon pollution emitted from fossil fuel power plants.

In fact, during the almost eight hours I spent listening to testimony, I only heard one person speak against EPA’s proposed standards. Clean air advocates carried the day by a wide margin.

Because I work for EDF, I testified about how carbon pollution and climate change are critical issues for the protection of human health and our environment. You can read my full testimony here [PDF]. 

But others’ testimony reminded me how much those issues affect every aspect of our lives.

People spoke about carbon pollution as a national security issue, an economic problem and a spiritual issue, as well as a public health and environmental threat.

I heard scores of personal and moving stories about how air pollution impacts people’s lives.

There were heart-wrenching moments when mothers and fathers talked about watching their children struggle to breathe because of asthma or other lung diseases.

One elderly woman held up a photograph of her grandson and talked about his difficulty breathing and need to carry a nebulizer on his hip at all times. The audience gave her a rousing ovation.

Asthma attacks can be triggered by ozone pollution, and the warmer temperatures caused by climate change mean we’ll have more ozone pollution.

That’s one reason why EPA’s proposed standards for carbon pollution are so important. They’ll cut the amount of climate-destabilizing carbon pollution emitted by new coal-fired power plants in half, compared to traditional plants.

The crowd at the Chicago hearing seemed to know that. What I took away from the hearing were the messages of hope, excitement, and opportunity.

The day was definitely a resounding victory for clean air.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed

An Inside Look at EPA’s Carbon Pollution Hearings

It was an exciting day for clean energy at the downtown Washington, D.C. headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

That’s where EPA held one of its two public hearings on the first ever proposed carbon pollution standards for new power plants. (The other hearing was in Chicago).

EPA’s registered speaker list was jam-packed. In fact, they had to run the hearings in two concurrent rooms to allow everyone a chance to speak.

Americans representing a wide variety of interests, and from all corners of the political spectrum, streamed into the rooms throughout the day to share their views on the proposed standards. It makes sense, because this is a vitally important issue for our public health and our environment.

Fossil fueled power plants are the single largest source of carbon pollution in America. They’re responsible for a staggering 40 percent of U.S. heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions.

EPA’s proposed standards will effectively halve the lifetime carbon emissions from new coal-fired power plants relative to traditional coal plants, and they’ll provide a pathway for development of clean and low-carbon energy.

I had the privilege of testifying for EDF today. You can read my full statement here. (My colleague Rob Collier testified for EDF in Chicago, and will post about his experience soon).

I spent the morning with an incredible variety of speakers: faith leaders; doctors, nurses and other health experts; moms; veterans; entrepreneurs; conservation, clean air, and environmental advocates; and supporters of energy efficiency from labor and industry.

They all provided testimony to EPA supporting this huge step forward toward reducing the climate destabilizing pollution spewed from our power sector.

Some people spoke about how the higher temperatures caused by carbon pollution will enhance the formation  of ozone pollution — commonly known as smog — which exacerbates respiratory and other health problems. Other people talked about how their health has been affected by smog and its role in triggering asthma attacks.

The diversity of individuals participating was a testament to the far-reaching impacts of a changing climate.

There were a handful of detractors, of course, who tried to challenge the overwhelming science and prudent policymaking underpinning EPA’s action to address carbon pollution. But they were clearly outnumbered.

Today was a decisive victory for our side – for advocates supporting action against carbon pollution. 

Another sign of victory today – Gene Karpinski of the League of Conservation Voters told reporters that almost 1.4 million Americans have submitted comments to EPA supporting the new carbon pollution standards.

You can still be part of that victory. EPA is accepting comments on the proposed standards until June 25, and you can submit a comment through EDF’s website and help show the wide-support for efforts to reduce dangerous climate pollution. You can learn a lot more about the proposed standards on our website as well.

Testifying today was an incredible experience. I’m looking forward to Rob’s report from Chicago. I hope their hearing was as big a success as the one here in Washington, D.C.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy / Read 1 Response