In four key cities this week, the Environmental Protection Agency held successful public hearings on its proposal to curb climate change pollution. Hundreds of people marched into the marathon sessions to share why taking this giant step to curb climate change matters to them personally.
They came from all walks of life and many traveled long distances. A great number testified in favor of the EPA's Clean Power Plan to put the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Their reasons were as varied as the threats from climate change, and bore witness to why we have to do something about it now.
For instance, in Washington, D.C., Sarah Bucci shared worries that her Virginia hometown of Richmond is known for its high incidence of asthma, which is made worse by climate change. Ivy Main of Virginia spoke with concern for people who are most exposed to harm from bad air because they work outdoors, such as homebuilders and landscapers. Regina Hendrix told of how people in her southwestern West Virginia community have suffered for years from worsened air and water quality due to industrial coal mining.
On Capitol Hill and in the DC public hearing, key climate action supporters--including Senators Barbara Boxer of California, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont--endorsed the EPA's effort. "This is what the American people want, and anyone who tries to undermine the president here is going against the will of the people," said Boxer, chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
In Atlanta, veterinarian Dr. Stephen Smith said he'd grown up in a world with a stable climate and the ability to use the best science available to tackle serious diseases. But as a father and a grandfather, "I worry the most about what kind of world we will leave for our children," he testified.
And fifth-generation farmer Matt Russell traveled to Pittsburgh to tell the EPA that something's gone wrong with the weather. Snow fell in May in Iowa. Farmers have been wrestling with record-breaking rains followed by extreme heat, followed by harsh drought. "My parents' farm hasn't had any rain since July 5," Russell testified. "Climate change is real, it's happening, it's going to get worse, and it's already causing great harm to American farms."
In Atlanta, Denver, Washington and Pittsburgh rallies and marches that drew hundreds were held outside the hushed hearing EPA public hearing rooms. Students and retirees, moms and their children, teachers and business owners, African Americans and Latinos, and many more called out their support for the EPA's effort with lines like "What do we want?" "Clean air!" When do we want it?" "Now!"
But the hearings also have drawn another group to the witness tables and the streets outside: the Americans for Clean Coal Energy, Americans for Prosperity and representatives of other dirty industries.
These big polluters oppose reining in our largest source of carbon pollution. They would prefer to protect the carbon loophole than take the right steps to safeguard public health and stabilize the climate.
The truth is the EPA's plan will spark innovation and clean up the air. It will speed us to cleaner energy and can spur creation of a quarter-million new jobs while saving U.S. families and businesses more than $37 billion on their electricity bills by 2020.
Big polluters will try to submerge these facts. But we have the throngs who spoke out this week for the EPA's strong climate pollution standards, and the backing of millions of Americans who want to take decisive action against climate change. We need to keep up the drumbeat, for our children and for the future of generations to come.