News / USA

Americans Angry About Power Plant Pollution

People Rush to Testify on Climate Issuesi
X
Rosanne Skirble
August 01, 2014 8:32 PM
Proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Rosanne Skirble

Proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate in the United States.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 comments.  The Agency opened its doors for public testimony this week and 1,600 people are expected to show up in Washington, D.C., Denver, Atlanta and Pittsburgh.

West Virginia native Regina Hendricks told the government panel in Washington that she has seen mountaintops removed, waterways polluted and air fouled because of coal operations. 

“These sites belch out mercury, selenium and poison, some of them in perpetuity," she said.  

Fed up

People lined up at EPA headquarters in Washington to testify on the proposed rule to cut emissions from U.S. coal plants, (Rosanne Skirble/VOA).People lined up at EPA headquarters in Washington to testify on the proposed rule to cut emissions from U.S. coal plants, (Rosanne Skirble/VOA).
x
People lined up at EPA headquarters in Washington to testify on the proposed rule to cut emissions from U.S. coal plants, (Rosanne Skirble/VOA).
People lined up at EPA headquarters in Washington to testify on the proposed rule to cut emissions from U.S. coal plants, (Rosanne Skirble/VOA).

Hendricks is fed up. So are West Virginia chemist Pamela Ellis and her twin daughters, Anya and Zipporah, who joined ranks outside EPA headquarters to support the government's proposals to cut carbon emissions.  Pamela Ellis wants to hold the polluters accountable, as do her daughters who suffer from asthma linked to the pollution.

 “So it’s hard knowing that I can’t go to some places due to the emissions that are destroying our environment," Anya said. 

Her sister nodded in agreement.

“Like Anya, I also have asthma and a lot of allergies. So I know personally that it’s really hard," she said. "I don’t want other kids to suffer with this in the future because we’re not taking care of our planet."

Coal-fired power plants supply nearly 40 percent of the nation’s electricity.  These plants are also the largest source of carbon pollution.  The EPA plan mandates a 30 percent cut in carbon emissions below 2005 levels through a broad array of actions - from energy efficiency to renewable energy options.  

Transparency

Like the others who filed into EPA headquarters throughout the day, Jeff Holmstead waited patiently in a packed hearing room for his turn to testify. The former EPA official represents the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a trade group that opposes the proposed rule on the grounds that it would shut plants, eliminate jobs and raise electric rates.  He told the panel that while he thinks it’s important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it’s important to be honest about what that means. 

“There is no free lunch and it will increase the cost of power," he said. "We just need to decide as a society how much we want to pay for that.”

Outside EPA headquarters food vendor hands out free ice cream alongside environmental activists who help passersby register comments online about the climate initiative, (Rosanne Skirble/VOA).Outside EPA headquarters food vendor hands out free ice cream alongside environmental activists who help passersby register comments online about the climate initiative, (Rosanne Skirble/VOA).
x
Outside EPA headquarters food vendor hands out free ice cream alongside environmental activists who help passersby register comments online about the climate initiative, (Rosanne Skirble/VOA).
Outside EPA headquarters food vendor hands out free ice cream alongside environmental activists who help passersby register comments online about the climate initiative, (Rosanne Skirble/VOA).

But it’s not just about money.  Holmstead said Americans would end up sacrificing an electric system they depend on. He added that the plan would also seriously delay efforts to curb climate-changing emissions.

“So people will spend an enormous amount of time and effort trying to figure out and comment on this proposal, and at the end of the day, it is highly unlikely that it will ever be implemented," Holmstead said. 

Lawsuit

Nine states have already joined in a lawsuit to oppose the measure.

John Coequyt is a policy expert with the Sierra Club, the nation’s oldest and largest environmental group.  He has heard the same arguments from industry before, only to see them proven wrong. 

“Every single time that EPA proposes a pollution-reducing standard, industry comes out saying that it is going to be a problem for jobs, it’s going to be a problem for the economy," he said.  "And every single time, EPA and the states find a way to implement these standards in a common sense manner that doesn’t adversely impact the economy,  that cleans up the air and saves lives.  There is no reason they won’t be able to do it again this time.”

Coequyt does agree that no single rule can fix the climate problem, but suggests this plan offers the chance to take a large step in that direction. 

“It also results in a fairly substantial reduction in carbon pollution that will become the centerpiece of the U.S. pledge internationally and has already allowed the administration to work with China and other countries to get them on board," he noted.

Meanwhile, for those who could not testify in person, there was another option outside EPA headquarters, where a food truck was handing out free ice cream. Strategically located beside the truck, environmental activists with iPads in hand were helping people make the most of the wait by encouraging them to send their comments to EPA electronically.

The new rules are expected to be finalized by next June.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More