Tuesday, November 19, 2013

EPA Holds a Listening Session in Philly On Carbon Regulations for Existing Power Plants

EPA Listening Sessions on carbon regulations for existing power plants were held in 11 cities around the US in October & November 2013.  Philadelphia's was on Nov. 8—the only session to be held in a state that is both a major producer and user of coal.  Despite that, of the 94 people who testified at the session, only 16 spoke against the rule, while 76 spoke in favor, and 2 were neutral.

The fossil fuel industry paraded out their usual hackneyed denialist rhetoric. Here are a few quotes from those speaking in opposition (as captured by Russell Zerbo of Clean Air Council):

Emil Myer, President IBEW Local 614, displayed ignorance of the science of climate disruption by making the irrelevant point, "Carbon is not a poison…It's the only thing that keeps plants alive."

Electric Reliability Coordinating Council made the fallacious claims that the rule would have "no real impact on global warming" and would "hamper or stifle innovation."

John Gibbs, Business Agent for IBEW Local 614, stated, "We're all used to the comforts of life," ignoring the fact that a substantial proportion of energy use in industrialized European nations are generated by sustainable alternatives.

Additional questionable claims made during the PA Coal Alliance's anti-regulation testimony can be found an article in a local business journal.

Speakers in favor of regulating carbon made a powerful case for regulation of dirty, antiquated forms of energy:

Jan Marie Rushforth of Rushforth Solar business said there are currently 174,000 gas and oil industry jobs, while there are 3.1 million renewable energy jobs.  She pointed out that the #1 cause of kids missing school is asthma, which is exacerbated by climate change.

Clifford Wagner, a science exhibit designer and one of the Sierra Club's supporters, said sea level rise could easily be 1 meter by 2050, and tidal wetlands will be decimated.  He was an early adopter of climate change thinking:  in 1988 he helped design a display on global warming for the Franklin Institute.

This being Philadelphia, 6 of those who testified identified themselves as Quakers, including the head of Friends Fiduciary, which provides prudent, cost-effective management of financial assets for Friends organizations.  The Friends Fiduciary Corporation Board decided recently that they will exclude from their portfolios those companies whose primary business is the mining or production of coal.

One of those who testified, Gary Witt, Assistant Professor of Finance at Temple University, identified himself as a registered Republican and a supporter of carbon controls.

A Swarthmore College student who testified in support of climate action, Laura Rigell, said she traveled as an observer to climate talks in Cancun and was about to go to the Warsaw climate talks coming up this week.

The day included a press conference at Independence Mall featuring 6 speakers:  Mitch Hescox of the Evangelical Environmental Network; Brian Kauffman, Executive Director of the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance; Ed Perry of the National Wildlife Federation (speaking as a sport fisherman); Walter Tsou, president of Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility; Gretchen Alfonso of Moms Clean Air Force; and Joy Bergey of Penn Future.  It was covered by Sandy Bauer of the Inquirer, as well as a writer and a photographer from WHYY public radio.  Brief clips of the coverage were aired on 11/9.  A crowd of about 30 people was present to hear the speakers.

Acknowledgements of Contributions From Sierra Club Volunteers

Eight Philadelphia area volunteers did phone-banking to encourage people to come out for the session:  Karen Melton, Gillian Norris, Matt Henry, Linda Yborra, Alexa Manning, Ashley Nagle, Martha Ralphe, and Sue Edwards. Randy Francisco, a Sierra Club field staff organizer from western PA, sent out e-mails that also brought people out.

Additionally, Gary Lytle recruited about 6 or 8 veterans to come from the The Philadelphia Veterans Multiservice and Education Center.  These were men who have participated in several Sierra Club activities recently.  Three of them gave testimony at the hearing.

Sue Edwards, Robin Mann, Jim Wylie, and Karen Melton each spent time signing people in as they arrived at the Federal Building to testify in support of the regulations.   Randy Francisco provided 50 colorful aqua T-shirts reading "Our Communities Need CLIMATE ACTION NOW," which were eagerly snatched up by attendees.

Sue Edwards
E Bryan Crenshaw III
Sierra Club Volunteer Activists

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