Tensions Stir At EPA Hearings On New Emission Rules | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

Tensions Stir At EPA Hearings On New Emission Rules

Play associated audio

The coal industry made its presence known in Pittsburgh this week for public hearings on President Obama's controversial plan to address climate change. A key element is rules the Environmental Protection Agency proposed in June. They would cut greenhouse gas emissions — chiefly carbon dioxide — from existing power plants. The national goal is 30 percent by 2030, based on 2005 levels.

Coal has much to lose under the rules. The EPA says power plants make up about a third of the greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and coal is used to generate nearly 40 percent of electricity today. States have a variety of options for meeting their reduction targets, but in coal country the industry and its workers are worried about the future.

At an industry rally Wednesday, Joel Watts with the West Virginia Coal Forum opened the event with a prayer. Referring to "God-given coal fields" his prayer took aim at the White House and EPA. "Give us the strength to stand strong against those who lie to us and hide behind their laws," prayed Watts. After "amen" there was applause.

Few here mention climate change. They focus instead on jobs and the economy. "If you shut coal down you lose miners. Miners lose money and they can't get out and shop. So it affects other businesses — it affects your community," says Kathy Adkins, a nurse in Madison, W. Va., who's married to a retired coal miner.

This theme continued at EPA's public hearing at the federal building in downtown Pittsburgh. West Virginia's Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant called for more federal investment in technologies to capture carbon from burning coal and then store it before it escapes into the atmosphere. "There is no reason to pit clean air against good-paying jobs," testified Tennant. "West Virginia can lead the country in developing coal technology that supports both."

But those who want to replace coal plants with cleaner forms of electricity see opportunity with these new rules. At an event organized by environmental groups, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke about a "new energy economy."

"We're not being dismissive of our brothers and sisters that are part of the older energy economy," said Peduto. "We want to bring them along and give them good jobs and opportunities in a new economy."

EPA officials heard oral comments this week from an estimated 1,600 people in four cities across the country: Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh. Each person was given five minutes.

Patricia DeMarco, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University's Green Sciences Institute, thanked the EPA for developing the proposed rules. "We are facing the definitive challenge of our time: the need to shift from a fossil-fueled economy to a renewable and sustainable economy," said DeMarco.

Others talked about the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid future effects of climate change.

"It's those who are marginalized that will feel the full brunt of climate change," said Kathy Dahlkemper, county executive in Erie County, Pennsylvania. "The price of food likely will increase, and the poor are almost always the hardest hit when we have harsh, weather-related disasters."

The EPA says it already has received around 300,000 comments on the proposed rules. The deadline for submitting written comments is Oct. 16. The agency expects to issue final rules next June.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

TLC's '19 Kids' Pulled For Sex-Abuse Scandal

Josh Duggar of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting admitted "wrongdoing" amid media reports that he allegedly fondled underage girls as a teenager. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with TV critic Eric Deggans.
NPR

Clean Your Grill, And Other Hot Holiday Tips From Alton Brown

Whether you're barbecuing OR grilling, a meat-eater or a vegetarian, here's how to keep your flavor from going up in smoke this Memorial Day weekend.
NPR

Senate Blocks Measures To Extend NSA Data Collection

The Senate worked late into the night but was not able to figure out what to do about expiring provisions in the Patriot Act that authorize the NSA's bulk collection of Americans' phone records.
NPR

The Future Of Cardiology Will Be Shown In 3-D

The Living Heart Project aims to create a detailed simulation of the human heart that doctors and engineers can use to test experimental treatments and interventions.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.