Packed House at EPA’s Atlanta Hearing on Carbon Rules

 Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency began two days of public hearings in Atlanta to gather public input on its proposed Clean Power Plan.  Originally planned as a one-day hearing, EPA added an additional day to accommodate the overwhelming amount of requests from people wanting to weigh in on the first ever proposed carbon pollution limits for existing power plants.  SACE staff and board members were in Atlanta to lend our support for the Clean Power Plan and offer suggestions on how to make the rule more effective in reducing carbon pollution and bolstering a clean energy economy in the Southeast.

Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley speaking at the rally

Environmental allies from across the Southeast gathered for a rally while the hearings were underway and participated in a march to show the groundswell of support for the Clean Power Plan.  The rally included speakers, like long-time civil rights activist and environmental justice advocate Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley, and various musical acts.  Almost 1,000 activists marched through the streets of Atlanta with signs and banners voicing their support for EPA’s rule.

SACE Executive Director Dr. Stephen Smith (left) delivers comments at the EPA hearing

During the hearings, several SACE staff and board members presented comments to EPA on the Clean Power Plan.  SACE Executive Director, Dr. Stephen Smith, shared his thoughts on how EPA can work with Southeastern states to ensure that the Clean Power Plan is finalized without unnecessary legal challenges and delay.  Dr. Smith emphasized the importance of the proposed rule’s flexibility, which allows each state to craft its own unique compliance roadmap in order to meet carbon pollution limits without threatening the state’s ability to provide cost-effective power to its residents. You can view Dr. Smith’s testimony here.

SACE Board President John Noel delivering his comments

SACE Board President, John Noel, spoke to EPA on how important the new plan is for businesses and stressed the importance of enacting strong regulations to reduce the amount of carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants to help mitigate the threat of climate change.  Under the Clean Power Plan, energy costs could remain low because each state can craft its compliance plan in a way that incentivizes cost-effective, clean energy resources and spurs innovation.  Climate change is already affecting businesses, with severe storms negatively affecting supply chains, the ability to deliver goods in a timely manner and increasing businesses insurance costs.

Angela Garrone, SACE’s Southeast Energy Research Attorney, called on EPA to remain strong in the face of resistance from some Southeastern states, utilities and others who believe EPA does not have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector.  Arguments against EPA’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide have been made in the past and were effectively shut down by the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPAwhich upheld EPA’s authority to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide.  We must move past these outdated arguments and work together to craft a final, effective Clean Power Plan.

Activists march through Downtown Atlanta

Amelia Shenstone, SACE’s Southeast Energy Organizer, spoke about the importance of addressing the unique needs of environmental justice communities who are more susceptible to the economic and public health impacts caused by climate change.  She also emphasized the need for EPA to keep states, like Alabama, honest and open in regards to future energy resources plans that will help the state comply with EPA’s regulations in a way that does not result in significant additional costs to bill-payers.

SACE Director of Policy and Communications, Jen Rennicks, holds up her child's asthma inhaler during her comments

SACE Director of Policy and Communications, Jen Rennicks, shared her experiences as the mother of an asthmatic child and thanked EPA for moving forward with these important public health regulations.  She emphasized the importance of the proposed rule in not only reducing climate change pollution but also reducing emissions of hazardous air pollutants from coal-plants that disproportionally burden vulnerable communities, such as children and the elderly, who are more susceptible to the negative effects of poor air quality.

SACE’s Energy Policy Manager, Taylor Allred, emphasized the importance of energy efficiency as a state compliance tool in the Clean Power Plan.  Southeastern states have historically lagged behind in implementation of cost-effective energy efficiency measures, resulting in some of the highest consumer electricity bills in the nation.  In fact, 8 of the top 15 states with the highest average monthly electricity bills are located within the Southeast, according to recent data from the Energy Information Administration.

Today, during the second day of EPA’s Clean Power Plan hearings in Atlanta, SACE’s Coastal Climate and Energy Coordinator, Chris Carnevale, will speak to EPA about the threat climate change poses to historical coastal communities, such as Charleston, South Carolina.  Without strong, effective limits on carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, sea level rise could destroy thousands of miles of coastal property in the Southeast.

You can read a previous SACE blog for a more in-depth look at how the proposed Clean Power Plan will affect the Southeast.  The official comment period for the Clean Power Plan ends October 16, 2014.  You can submit your comments to EPA here and make sure your voice is heard!  And for more pictures from the event, check out our Flickr page!

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