WASHINGTON – Hundreds of people around the U.S. attended the first day of hearings Tuesday about a federal proposal to cut carbon emissions. In Washington,they ate fudge brownie ice cream to mark the occasion.
The free scoops of Ben & Jerry’s were meant for demonstrators who gathered outside Environmental Protection Agency headquarters for the start of a two-day hearing,one of four around the country,on the Clean Power Plan. The plan proposes to cut carbon emissions from existing U.S. power plants by a third and electric bills by 8 percent.
“There’s no emergency room for the Earth. We need to see change,” Sen. Ed Markey,D-Mass.,said at a news conference after he testified.
Politicians,scientists,industry leaders and environmentalists are among the 1,600 people slated to deliver five-minute statement on the merits or flaws of the EPA’s proposal. Hearings are also being held in Atlanta,Pittsburgh and Denver.
The EPA’s request for comments on the climate change rule has drawn 300,000 comments by email,fax or letter,EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said. The comment period is open until Oct. 16.
The Clean Power Plan was proposed June 2 and is part of a larger Climate Action Plan that was announced by President Barack Obama last summer. The proposal targets power plants,which account for one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emission,according to the EPA.
EPA officials predict that when the proposed plan is fully in effect in 2030,carbon emissions from these sources will be 30 percent below 2005 levels. There are currently no national limits on carbon.
But some lawmakers are criticizing the EPA’s use of the Clean Air Act to propose the plan. Rep. Ed Whitfield,R-Ky.,said Tuesday at a hearing of the House subcommittee on Energy and Power that the agency is overstepping its authority to use the law to tell states how to produce and use electricity.
“Ironically,EPA is embarking on this comprehensive effort to federalize energy planning,even though the agency has absolutely no energy policy-setting authority or expertise,” Whitfield said during the hearing.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Acting Chairman Cheryl LaFleur weighed in on the EPA’s plan in testimony before the House subcommittee. She said she is mindful of concerns about the Clean Power Plan,but that FERC will remain engaged with the rollout of new EPA regulations.
What happens next with carbon emission will be up to the states. The plan requires states to identify a path using either current or new electricity policies to meet the EPA’s guidelines.
The federal-state partnership means it will be a long time before the plan is in effect,Debbie Sease,director of advocacy for the Sierra Club,said. She spoke at the rally that her group helped organize.
Sease stood among a crowd of hundreds of people holding signs reading “Climate Action Now” and “Protect Our Communities.” Children threw blow-up balls that looked like the Earth into the air as others held pinwheels as a symbol of support for wind energy.
Sease has worked with the Sierra Club for 30 years. Finding a way to affect climate change has been her entire career,but she said still enjoys watching others express their support to change the environment.
“People got on buses to D.C. to testify at this hearing,to be here at this rally,” she said. “That kind of public action on behalf of the environment is very exciting.”
Reach reporter Megan Card at [email protected] or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.