During the week of July 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held hearings in four cities: Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington, DC. The two-day sessions were to allow the public to have their voice heard about the proposed rules it released on June 2 that will supposedly cut CO2 emissions by 30%.
Many, including myself, believe that these rules are really an attempt to shut down coal-fueled electricity generation and implement a cap-and-trade program that the Administration couldn’t get through Congress in 2009, when cap-and-trade’s obvious allies held both houses of Congress.
If the EPA’s plans were clear, direct, and honest, the public would likely revolt outright. Instead, the intent is hidden in pages of cumbersome language and the messaging becomes all about clean air and water—and about the health of children.
Because I was in the area—speaking a few hours from Atlanta on Sunday—I took advantage of the proximity and signed up to speak at the hearing. When I first attempted to sign up, day one was already full. The EPA had so many people who wanted time to share their opinions, a second day was added, and I was put on the schedule.
The first day, Tuesday, July 29, included competing rallies held in near-record-low temperatures for Atlanta in July. Supporters of the EPA’s plan—many of whom were bussed in from surrounding states—gathered in Centennial Olympic Park. I spoke at the rally, made up of plan opponents, that was organized by Americans for Prosperity’s Georgia chapter held at the Sam Nunn Federal Center—where the hearing was originally scheduled (before a power outage forced a move to the Omni Hotel).
I spent the rest of the day at the hearing. It had a circus-like atmosphere. With tables of literature, people carrying signs, and many of the plan’s supporters identified by their matching pale-green tee shirts emblazoned with:
Protect our communities
CLIMATE ACTION NOW.
Once I had a taste of what to expect the next day, when I was to present my comments in the five minutes allotted, I prepared what I wanted to say. The following is my original text—though I had to edit it down to get it within the allowed time frame. For presentation here, I’ve also enhanced my comments with some additional insights from others. The verbiage that is not a part of my original testimony is included in italics.
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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.
One woman claimed her neighbor had gotten asthma from global warming.
Another addressed how she gets headaches from emissions. She told how lung tissue could 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.
Dave Bufalo is a retired civil engineer who attended and testified at the EPA’s Denver location. He told me he had a similar experience: “I was only able to stay for about an hour but I did hear about 10 testimonials. They were all in support of the EPA’s proposed regulation. I don’t believe that anyone had really read the proposal prior to testifying. Their testimonies seemed to lack an understanding of the chemical nature of CO2. One elderly woman could only state that she thanked the EPA for insuring that she had clean air and water. One gentleman was clearly pushing for the sale of his company’s solar panels.”
James Rust, Ph.D., is a retired professor of nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech. In his testimony in Atlanta, he referenced thousands of peer-reviewed papers showing carbon dioxide emissions had a negligible effect on climate change. He pointed to the stack of documents from the Heartland Institute called Climate Change Reconsidered I and II that contained these peer-reviewed articles. It was at that point, that a man in the front row shouted out “Liar!” Rust told me: “This is the typical type of response from the mob that promotes this climate change scare. They use ad hominem attacks and don’t debate the real issues because they have no experimental data that backs up what they are proposing.”
Carbon dioxide is a natural, and essential, part of the environment— massive, unknown, quantities of carbon dioxide are emitted each year from natural sources, such as volcanoes. Were we able to eliminate carbon dioxide from every industrial source in the United States, it would 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, where my family lived, is in a valley, surrounded by mountains. It 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 billions of dollars on scrubbers, and on other highly technical equipment such as SCR’s, electrostatic precipitators, and bag houses, 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. The book shows an amazingly clean city—despite the more than 8 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 thus 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.
Dozens of members from a variety of different unions were present in Atlanta to speak out against the plan. Skip Howard, Business Manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 421 in North and South Carolina, explained: “Although Nuclear Power is a clean, renewable source of energy and not affected by fluctuating oil-and-gas prices, energy from Coal-fired Plants is cheaper and helps keep the cost of electricity affordable to consumers. Coal-fired Plants are reliable and cheaper to build than a Nuclear Plant. Coal-fired plants are now designed to be a safe and efficient source of energy that supports grid systems, helping to avoid blackouts. New clean coal technologies create many thousands of new high-wage jobs across our country, helping our economy grow.”
Several of the union members who testified in Atlanta assailed the EPA representatives because the hearing locations were far from where those most impacted—the coal miners—live.
I spent some time on Tuesday talking with many of the union representatives. David Cagle, Marketing Representative for the Plumbers, Pipefitters, and HVAC/R Service Technicians Local Union 72 based in Atlanta, told me: “I appreciate your interest in helping our country to be able to continue to provide economical electric energy and well-paying jobs to America’s families and businesses.” He then offered me this brief history of what the coal-fired electric energy industry means to his family:
After World War II my father worked in one of the first large coal-fired powerhouses built in the state of Georgia. That well-paying job allowed him to help his parents pay off the mortgage on their house and also to start saving for a down payment for a home of his own one day. My father worked on several coal-fired powerhouses throughout his career in the piping industry. These well-paying jobs provided a decent standard of living for his family.
The powerhouses that my father helped build are still providing well-paying jobs for the people who run them and the workers who do the maintenance on them. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers have benefited from the well-paying jobs in the construction and maintenance of these facilities. They are also still providing low-cost electrical power to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of customers.
Beside my family benefiting from the coal-powered electric generation industry, I can tell you firsthand what coal does for our country across the continent.
I lived in Campbell County, Wyoming, for two years in the mid-90s. Campbell County is the Energy Capital of the United States. Thousands of families would lose a very good way of living, if the coal mines in Wyoming were shut down. The coal mined there is very low in sulfur and produces some of the cleanest electricity on earth. I also know many people from West Virginia who depend on coal to be able to make a decent living.
I fully understand the devastating effects the Obama Administration’s new EPA rules on coal-fired powerhouses would have on people on a fixed income. My parents are in their late 80s and early 90s. They are on a fixed income and in poor health. The last thing they need are large power bills that would destroy their budget and force them to rely on their children to help pay their power bills.
My whole family are outdoorsmen. We have all been raised to hunt and fish and respect and protect our environment. My family would be the first to embrace a low-cost, environmentally sound alternative to coal-fired powerhouses. The problem is, there is no alternative economically viable source available at this time.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) covered a union protest that took place at the Pittsburgh hearing. It states: “Unions opposing the proposed rule argue that U.S. workers will pay the price for lowering emissions domestically while other countries—most notably China, where coal usage has grown rapidly—will continue to burn coal and emit carbon dioxide.” The WSJ reported: “Unions focused their efforts on Pittsburgh, sending busloads of unionized miners, utility workers, railroad workers, and others from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, and other states.”
I also 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. It is one more example of executive overreach.
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” section in 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 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. In his grandparents’ day, life expectancy in the U.S. was estimated at 45 years. By 2000, this had increased to 78 years—mostly due to our expansion of cost-effective electricity throughout the nation.
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.
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While the public hearings are over, you can still give the EPA your comments online. Please add your voice to the debate.http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plant–proposed-rule