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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.