At public hearings in Chicago and Washington, D.C. yesterday, supporters, public health officials, and scientists are testifying in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency's Carbon Pollution Standard, the first-ever limit on life-threatening carbon pollution from power plants.
Thousands of Americans have already spoken out via email in support of these standards to protect our health and clean our air, and now hundreds more have done it in person at these hearings.
Yesterday morning I spoke at the Washington, D.C., hearing. I want to share that testimony with you and encourage you to follow along with the hearings online to both voice your support and to see the support from Americans nationwide.
Here's what I said to the EPA this morning:
Good morning. My name is Mary Anne Hitt. I'm a mother, a concerned citizen, and the director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. I live in West Virginia with my family, and because my husband is traveling on business this week, I am joined today by my two-year-old daughter, Hazel. Hopefully, her patience will match the length of my remarks this morning. We will see.
I'm here today to voice my full support for the EPA's proposed carbon pollution standard.
A decade ago, there were over 200 proposed coal-fired power plants on the drawing board nationwide. Fast forward to today, ten years later, and only a handful of those plants have been built. Why?
Some were rejected by moms, dads, small business owners, and other local residents who feared a major new industrial polluter in their backyard would harm their children's health, destroy their property values, and trap them in a town or neighborhood condemned to a downward spiral of pollution and poverty.
Some were rejected by governors, who wanted their states to be clean energy leaders in the 21st century, and thought major new investments in coal would take their state in exactly the wrong direction.
Some were rejected by state regulators, who feared that ratepayers would pay dearly on their electric bills if their state became locked into high carbon energy for the next fifty plus years.
And some were rejected by financial backers, who realized that these projects were an increasingly bad bet, because they simply could not compete with the rapidly dropping prices of cleaner sources of energy.
As a result, only one new coal-fired power plant has broken ground in the US since 2008, and the permit for that project was recently struck down in a unanimous decision by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
During this same decade, in 2009, the EPA issued its finding that carbon pollution endangers public health and welfare. As I just noted, Americans of all walks of life were simultaneously reaching the same conclusion - from financiers to governors, from state regulators to local moms and dads.
In issuing this proposed carbon pollution standard, the EPA has taken an important step to safeguard our health and our families. As I'm sure you will hear many times today, carbon pollution has been linked by scientists to increasing temperatures and increasing levels of smog, which triggers asthma attacks and other life-threatening health problems.
But carbon pollution doesn't just threaten our children's health today. As the main cause of climate disruption, carbon pollution casts a dark shadow over every aspect of their future, a future menaced by the threat of increasing droughts, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and rising sea levels, not to mention the resulting political instability around the world.
My daughter Hazel is the light of my life. She is learning to sing, she never wants to come inside, and one of her favorite things is wandering around the alleys of our small town looking for cats. She is also an 11th generation West Virginian, through her father. With our deep Appalachian roots, we understand all too well the challenges that the clean energy future poses to some parts of our country. But I believe we have the ingenuity and know-how to tackle those challenges. Here is how the largest newspaper in West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette, put it in their editorial this past Sunday:
This topic [climate change] has special resonance in West Virginia, a fossil fuel treasure trove. And what happens here has a special impact on the future of the planet. Pollution controls seeking to reduce global warming are sure to impose tighter restrictions on coal and natural gas. West Virginia's energy should not be squandered on a shortsighted attempt to protect the status quo, or to discredit science in the public's eyes, or to vilify the Obama administration's very reasonable proposal that new coal-fired power plants be required to limit their greenhouse gas emissions.
The EPA's proposed carbon pollution standard is a common-sense step towards addressing a very real threat to this nation, and to the future that my daughter, and all our children, will inherit. If anything, the EPA is arriving late in the game, following in the footsteps of community leaders, governors, state regulators, and financiers who all realized, in the past decade, that new power plants in this country must deal with their carbon pollution. I support the proposed standard, and I encourage you to finalize it with all due haste. Thank you.
Follow Mary Anne Hitt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/maryannehitt