“Listening sessions” are over, was the EPA listening?

Mayors, environmental groups concerned about rollback of the Clean Power Plan

SPRINGFIELD - Despite a trio of listening sessions regarding rollback of the Clean Power Plan that were held in Kansas City, Mo., San Francisco and Gillette, Wy., environmental groups do not have much hope that EPA Chief Scott Pruitt will keep the plan in place.

The Clean Power Plan, which took effect in 2015, was aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Pruitt has said the plan “weaponized” the agency against oil, gas and coal production, in favor of clean energy.

But Abe Scarr, state director with Environment Illinois, called the rollback “an all-out assault on the environment.” Scarr added that he is disappointed the EPA did not schedule a public hearing in this state. “On the flip side, creating this plan took several years of work and lots of public input,” said Scarr. “We’re always troubled when a government agency takes a major action without giving the public adequate time to participate. Typically, that’s because they know the public doesn’t support them.”

Although no other public listening sessions are scheduled, comments can be submitted to the federal government through April 26 at https://www.regulations.gov (follow the instructions for submitting comments to EPA-HQ-OAR-2017-0355). Instructions for sending comments by e-mail, fax or mail are also available at epa.gov.

Scarr said the Clean Power Plan would curb carbon pollution by 32 percent by 2030 and boost the clean energy transition to wind and solar. He explained that if the Trump administration eliminates the plan, it will be up to the states to make sure protections are in place - a process that has already started in Illinois.

“A little over a year ago, Illinois passed a real sweeping energy bill, the Future Energy Jobs Act, which will greatly increase our reliance on renewable energy here in the state, and reduce carbon emissions,” Scarr said. “And there’s more we can do here in Illinois.”

Last month, 240 mayors across the country - including five from Illinois - sent a letter to Pruitt. In the letter, they cited an EPA study that said tens of thousands of deaths could occur in the United States if global warming is not held to 2 degrees Celsius, which is the international climate goal that the Clean Power Plan would help to achieve.

“No one is insulated from the impacts of climate change – people in cities of all sizes, along with suburban and rural communities are all at risk,” the letter stated. “Residents of our communities have experienced harmful impacts of climate change such as dirtier air, increased heat-related illnesses and deaths, damaged and disappearing coastlines, longer droughts and other strains on water quantity and quality, and increasingly frequent and severe storms and wildfires.”

The mayors, who collectively represent over 52 million residents in 48 states and territories, emphasized that repealing the Clean Power Plan would slow local efforts to address climate change. Their letter to Pruitt stated: “Not only are climate change impacts felt locally — our communities are also where climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts are being implemented. Urban, suburban, and rural communities across the country are reducing their contributions to greenhouse gas emissions by investing in energy efficiency, committing to the use of clean energy resources, and reducing reliance on fossil-fueled energy sources - efforts that protect against climate change, and also support clean air and a vibrant clean energy economy.

But the legal authority of cities and other municipalities generally extends only as far as their state governments and federal law allow, and as a result, our local efforts to address climate change are highly sensitive to national policies like the Clean Power Plan, which shape markets, steer state action, and have large direct impacts on nationwide emissions.

We would benefit from the support and certainty that a federal framework for reducing the power sector’s greenhouse gas emissions could provide. The Clean Power Plan, by providing such a framework, would enhance ongoing local efforts and enable new local initiatives to improve public health, increase air quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy innovation.”

The letter also repeated a statement that more than 25 mayors delivered during development of the Clean Power Plan: “We cannot act alone. We need the federal government to provide a path forward to making meaningful reductions in carbon pollution while preparing for the impacts of climate change.”

In closing, the mayors’ recent letter to Pruitt said they “strongly oppose the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would put our citizens at risk and undermine our efforts to prepare for and protect against the worst impacts of climate change.”


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