Clean Power Plan Public Hearing Testimony
July 30, 2014
Today, I have come to address the EPA’s proposed rule regarding carbon emissions from existing power plants. I speak on behalf of myself and my personal views.
I also represent the Washington DC based group: Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and its 60,000 supporters. Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow has been working on issues of environment and development for more than twenty-five years with a board consisting of more than fifty scientists and academic advisors from leading universities, think tanks, and laboratories from around the world. I serve as a policy analyst for Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow.
I was here yesterday and earlier today. I’ve listened to the well intentioned pleas from many who have begged you,
the EPA, to take even stronger action than this plan proposes. One even dramatically claimed; “You are the Environmental Protection Agency. You are our only hope. If you don’t protect us no one will.”
I heard a teary-eyed, young woman tell a tale about a man she knows who is dying of cancer, supposedly, because he grew up near a coal-fired power plant—he couldn’t be here, so she told his story. She also said: “I am fortunate enough to have not been around in the 1960s when there was real smog.” Her father has told her about it.
Another addressed how she gets headaches from emissions. She told how lung tissue can be burned. And, how particulates are why people can no longer see the mountain in her region.
An attorney’s testimony told about seeing “carbon pollution” every day from his 36th floor office “a few blocks from here” from where he looks “out over a smog covered city.”
The passion of these commenters supersedes their knowledge as none of the issues I’ve mentioned here, and there are many more, are something caused by carbon dioxide—a clear, colorless gas that each of us breathe out and plants breathe in.
Carbon dioxide is a natural, and essential, part of the environment—with massive, unknown, quantities of carbon dioxide emitted each year from natural sources such as volcanoes. Were you able to eliminate carbon dioxide from every industrial source in the United States, it will have virtually no impact on global carbon dioxide emissions.
I understand the concerns over true smog and pollution. I grew up in southern California—graduating from high school in 1976. At that time, we had made a mess of our environment. We had polluted the air and water. Cleaning up our collective act was an important public policy issue. San Bernardino, California, where my family lived, was in a valley, surrounded by mountains. If was not uncommon for a family to move into the area in the summer, when the smog was the worst, and not even know the beautiful mountains existed. In the fall when the winds came in and blew the smog out to sea, newcomers where amazed to discover the mountains.
But that pollution, that smog, has largely been cleaned up. Utilities have spent hundreds of billion dollars on scrubbers, and other highly technical equipment, to, successfully, remove the vast majority of the particulates. People often see a billowing white cloud coming from the stacks at a coal-fueled power plant and confuse it with pollution when it is really H2O—water in the form of steam. Depending on the time of year, or the time of day, it may be more or less visible. The weather conditions may make it settle like fog until the sun burns it off. And this, I believe, is mistaken for pollution.
If you haven’t seen Randy Scott Slavin’s Bird’s-Eye-View of New York City, I encourage you to check it out as it shows an amazingly clean city—despite the more than 800 million people living in those compact 469 square miles. New York City is one of the most populated places on the planet, yet its air is sparkling.
This rule is not about pollution. It is about shutting down coal-fueled power plants and killing jobs and raising electricity rates—both of which punish people who can least afford it. But plenty of others have addressed the economic impact so I won’t take more of my time on that topic.
But, I do want to address the constitutionality of the proposed plan as it does exactly what the Supreme Court admonished the EPA about on June 23. Justice Antonin Scalia, for the majority, wrote this about the Tailoring Rule decision: “Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers… The power of executing laws…does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice.” Yet, this is exactly what this proposed plan will do.
Later in the decision, Scalia says: “When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate “a significant portion of the American economy” . . . we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism. We expect Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign an agency decisions of vast “economic and political significance.”
I believe on these grounds, this plan must not go forward.
I fear that if it does, America will pay a dear price. This hearing was scheduled to take place down the street at the Sam Nunn Federal Center. However, it was moved due to a power outage. Note: business cannot be done without power. You were able to move this hearing. In a reduced-power environment businesses will move to places where they have access to energy that is effective, efficient, and economical. They will move, as many have already done, to places with far-looser environmental policies and the perceived gain will be lost.
Thinking that what we do in the United States will have a serious impact on global carbon dioxide emissions is like thinking that declaring a “no pee” sectionin the swimming pool will keep the water urine free.
I’ll end with a quote from the smog-viewing attorney who closed with: “I am hopeful that my new grandchildren. Who will live into the 22nd century, will enjoy a world that my grandparents, born in the 19th century, would recognize.” If this plan is passed, he may get his wish. His grandparents’ world contained of none of the energy-based modern conveniences or medical miracles we consider standard and essential today—let alone those yet to be developed or discovered by the 22nd century.
Remember, the countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are those with the highest energy consumption. America needs energy that is abundant, available and affordable.