A week ago last Thursday I attended the EPA hearings in Washington, DC on new regulations for carbon emissions from new power plants. And I’ll admit it – I was terrified to testify, so I didn’t. I had been offered the opportunity to testify numerous times, to let the EPA know why this rule is so important to me, to all Americans, and to the world. Having never been to a hearing before, I pictured an intimidating set-up. I thought, what could I contribute that nobody else was saying?
We all know that regulating carbon emissions from power plants will not only benefit the health of millions, but that it is an important (if inadequate) undertaking to limit the production of greenhouse gases. And so many brave people stepped up to the plate. The panel heard from economists, scientists, nurses, doctors, wildlife lovers, public health experts, and concerned citizens. The word asthma was mentioned so many times that although at first I thought it would make a good drinking game, I quickly realized I’d have died of alcohol poisoning in the first hour. I heard tales of people being forced to stay inside on hot summer days because of air quality and others gasping for breath. We heard about chronic pulmonary obstructive disorder and polar bears.
But I shouldn’t have been scared to testify. EPA officials sat patiently and listened intently to what the people had to say. Most people read prepared statements and then submitted them for the record. It was a respectful, non-intimidating atmosphere and I wish I had taken the opportunity to speak my mind. I support the EPA, but I want more. I want to make sure the EPA knows that carbon emissions from ALL power plants need to be regulated. But still, every little bit helps.
I listened and watched the proceedings for about 3 hours. During that time I only heard from 2 people arguing against the standards. One represented a small town in Virginia, and spoke of the economic losses to families. The other was one of the bad guys we hear so much about, a man with a booming voice, proclaiming the uncertainty of climate change. As he ranted on and on, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and share a moment with the gentleman in front of me who was shaking his head at this man’s lies and misinformation.
It seems big coal was a more powerful presence at the Chicago hearing. There, “somebody” (I wonder who!) put an ad out on Craigslist offering to pay people to wear pro-coal t-shirts at the hearing. I’m not going to lie, I could use $50. But I wouldn’t hurt others for it.
Yet there was a distinct dearth of youth voices. One of my favorite moments came when a gawky teen took the stand and peered awkwardly out at the audience before quickly casting down his eyes. But when it was his turn to speak, he spoke clearly and forcefully, with a confidence beyond his years, likely beyond my years.The youth have a powerful voice. We need to use it.
The good news is that all of our voices can still be heard. The public comment period is open until June 25, click here to add your voice! There have already been more than 1.4 million comments submitted. Let’s make sure YOUR story is heard, why do you the support EPA in regulating carbon emissions from new power plants?