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Standing Up for Bold Climate Action

Tuesday marked the beginning of a series of public hearings on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule to limit carbon emissions from our nation’s power sector. The hearings took place over the course of four days in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

The proposal – and subject of the public forums – aims to cut overall carbon pollution from existing power plants to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, a goal the U.S. is already halfway to achieving. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration data, current carbon emissions from the energy sector have fallen nearly 15 percent from 2005.

That’s why the proposal not only is achievable, but we can do much better. In fact, the science demands – and our technological advancements allow for – a more aggressive plan to cut climate-causing pollution.

Public Citizen staff and activists turned out to each hearing to deliver to the EPA the message that we all support an aggressive plan that uses our vast renewable energy sources and cost-saving efficiency technologies to address the largest source of U.S. climate altering pollution (power plants).

Public Citizen Standing up to Dirty Energy, Standing up for Consumers and the Climate:

On the first day of testimony in Denver, I told the EPA that “Public Citizen supports strong carbon emissions regulations. The unlimited dumping of carbon into our atmosphere has led to a global climate crisis. We can no longer afford inaction or half measures. We urge the EPA to strengthen its proposed plan by adequately reflecting the role of energy efficiency and renewable energy in transitioning to a clean and affordable energy economy.

Allison Fisher testifying at the EPA hearing in Denver on July 29.
Allison Fisher testifying at the EPA hearing in Denver

That same day in Atlanta, Public Citizen member, Albert Roesel, a retired teacher, told the EPA, “I have been distraught watching this climate catastrophe cascading in the late years of my life, having grown up with the idea that each generation is obligated to leave succeeding generations better off, knowing that instead, we have loaded the dice against the dreams of our children. Now with EPA’s Clean Power Plan, I have a glimmer of hope. It’s not enough, but it’s a start.”

The next evening in Washington, D.C., Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, delivered this message to the EPA: “As one of America’s largest consumer groups, I find it curious when big corporations claim they’re speaking on behalf of consumers. Take the Chamber of Commerce, which has attacked the EPA rules, claiming they’ll raise utility bills. But their claims are false. As a consumer group, I can tell you that these modest rules can actually lead to lower electricity bills. But the Chamber isn’t interested in having an honest policy debate; rather, their non-factual attacks on the EPA are designed to bolster an electoral strategy to sensationalize harm from the rule as a tool to sway votes in the upcoming election. So even though the rules won’t actually cause price hikes, there are a few things that the EPA can do to bolster consumer protections to help blunt these attacks. First, the EPA can urge states to allow for intervenor funding at PUCs [public utility commission], so that consumer groups can help defray some of the legal and expert witness costs required to actively participate. Second, the EPA can urge states to set up stakeholder groups that develop binding recommendations for the design of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. That way, consumers, environmentalists, state officials and utilities all have a seat at the table. Third, the EPA can remind states that electricity is an essential service, and that protections for service termination need to be strengthened for those struggling to pay their bills. Fourth, energy efficiency programs should be cost-effective, and demonstrate specific and verifiable energy savings for households.”

And on Thursday in Pittsburgh, Rick Claypool, online director for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, reminded the EPA that, “polluting industries such as those that have set themselves against the EPA’s modest standards will say anything if they think it will help them scare the public and convince regulators to back down. Their financial interest in continuing to pollute as much as they want is no excuse for sacrificing the public interest in addressing climate change and ensuring clean air.” Claypool concluded by demanding that the agency “not back down. Double down. Strengthen the rules so limits are placed on all fossil fuels – including fracked natural gas. Take this opportunity to help us kick the fossil fuel habit and transition to a clean energy economy.”

Even before the hearings began, Public Citizen was rallying support for a strong rule and educating its members about the details and implications of the carbon cutting proposal.

And on the eve of the hearings, Public Citizen gathered at the Alliance Center in Denver with supporters and friends including Hunter Lovins, president of Natural Capitalism Solutions, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, professor of sustainable development and co-author of 14 books; and Jenn Vervier, sustainability director of New Belgium Brewing Company, which donated a selection of beer for the reception.

Fisher with Public Citizen supports at the Clean Power Plan reception in Denver
Fisher with Public Citizen supports at the Clean Power Plan reception in Denver

At the co-sponsored event organized by Public Citizen and the Denver Office of Sustainability, nearly a 100 people gathered to network and learn more about how to engage in the rulemaking process. Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, Tom “Smitty” Smith, addressed the group with an impassioned call to action, telling the crowd that we can’t afford not to take bold climate action and that the only thing that can beat back the influence wielded by one of the most powerful industries in the world – fossil fuel- is an informed and active citizenry.

Indeed – Public Citizen is no stranger to taking on Goliath industries that threaten our democracy, public health and access to clean, safe and affordable energy. We have delivered our message to the EPA. Now we will continue to organize more citizens to unite behind bold climate action. The comment period for the proposed rule closes on October 16, 2014. If you missed the public hearing, you can still let the EPA know you support a strong carbon rule.

Take Action: Urge the EPA to strengthen its proposed Clean Power Plan.

Allison Fisher is the Outreach Director for Public Citizen’s Energy and Climate Program