Tag Archives: Environmental Protection Agency

Republicans vow to shred historic Paris climate accord

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the international climate change agreement reached in Paris as a major achievement that could help turn the tide on global warming.

But Republicans, who are heavily funded by fossil fuel interests that produce the pollutants causing climate change, tried to deflate the celebration, vowing to overturn the agreement signed by almost 200 nations if the party wins the White House in 2016. 

Obama said the climate agreement “can be a turning point for the world” and credited his administration for playing a key role. He and Kerry predicted the agreement would prompt widespread spending on clean energy and help stem carbon pollution.

“We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge,” Obama said from the White House. He said the climate agreement “offers the best chance we have to save the one planet we have.”

But the immediate reaction of leading Republicans was a reminder of the conflict that lies ahead.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama is “making promises he can’t keep” and should remember the agreement “is subject to being shredded in 13 months,” when the next president takes the oath of office.

Clean-power pushback

Even as Obama was working to hammer out a global climate agreement in Paris, Republican climate-change deniers in Congress were working to block his plan to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants.

The House passed two resolutions Dec. 8 against the power-plant rules. A measure blocking an Environmental Protection Agency rule for existing power plants was approved 242–180, while a measure blocking a rule on future power plants was approved 235–188.

The votes came after the Senate approved identical motions in November under a little-used law that allows Congress to block executive actions it considers onerous.

The measures, as WiG went to press, were at the White House, where they faced almost-certain vetoes.

Just four Democrats sided with Republicans to support the measures, which fell far short of the numbers needed to override a veto in both the House and Senate.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said GOP lawmakers were forcing a vote on the climate rule “to send a message … there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the president’s pro-environment policies will kill jobs, increase electricity costs and decrease the reliability of the U.S. energy supply.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he wished Obama took the threat posed by “radical jihadists” as seriously as he takes the “pseudoscientific threat” posed by climate change.

Republicans at the state level also are challenging the power plan, which requires states to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, based on emissions in 2005. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.

The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. But 25 mostly Republican states, led by Texas and West Virginia, are contesting the plan in court, calling it an unlawful power grab that will kill jobs and drive up electricity costs. Wisconsin, which has perhaps the nation’s strongest rules discouraging “green” energy, is part of the suit.

Utilities, the National Mining Association and the nation’s largest privately owned coal company also are suing the EPA over the new rules.

Koch Industries, a major polluter that political insiders say pulls the strings of the Wisconsin GOP, is one of the world’s largest funders of climate-change propaganda.

The Associated Press was a source for this analysis.

EPA to withdraw controversial weed killer that was approved for Wisconsin

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking steps to withdraw approval of a controversial new weed killer to be used on genetically modified corn and soybeans.

The EPA announced in a court filing that it had received new information from manufacturer Dow AgroSciences that a weed killer called Enlist Duo is probably more toxic than previously thought.

EPA had approved Enlist Duo for use in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and North Dakota, and was likely to OK it for other states.

In a filing with the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, EPA said it “might not have issued the existing registration had it been aware” of the new information when it originally approved the product a year ago to be used with new strains of genetically modified corn and soybeans. EPA asked the court for the authority to reverse its decision while it reconsiders the herbicide in light of the new information, including whether wider buffer zones might be required to protect non-target plants.

The seeds are engineered to resist the herbicide, so farmers can spray the fields after the plants emerge and kill the weeds while leaving crops unharmed.

EPA’s move was welcomed by environmental and food safety groups that had sued to rescind approval of the potent new herbicide. But it is sure to create anxiety for the agriculture industry, since many weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, an herbicide now commonly used on genetically modified corn and soybeans. Enlist includes a combination of glyphosate and an updated version of an older herbicide named 2,4-D.

“With this action, EPA confirms the toxic nature of this lethal cocktail of chemicals, and has stepped back from the brink,” said Earthjustice Managing Attorney Paul Achitoff. “Glyphosate is a probable carcinogen and is wiping out the monarch butterfly, 2,4-D also causes serious human health effects, and the combination also threatens endangered wildlife. This must not, and will not, be how we grow our food.”

Dow AgroSciences issued a statement calling for rapid resolution of the matter, citing “the pressing needs of U.S. farmers for access to Enlist Duo to counter the rapidly increasing spread of resistant weeds” and predicting that “these new evaluations will result in a prompt resolution of all outstanding issues.”

EPA’s decision means that Enlist Duo, which is currently on the market, won’t be in wide use for plantings next spring. EPA hasn’t said whether farmers already in possession of the herbicide will be able to use it, and that could be a topic for future litigation, said Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety.

Critics say they’re concerned the increased use of 2,4-D could endanger public health and more study on the chemical is needed. The USDA has predicted that the use of 2,4-D could increase by an estimated 200 percent to 600 percent by the year 2020.

EPA had earlier said when approving the new weed killer that agency officials had used “highly conservative and protective assumptions to evaluate human health and ecological risks.” The EPA said at the time that the herbicide met safety standards for the public, agricultural workers and endangered species.

Now, EPA says it has “has received new information from Dow AgroSciences — the registrant of Enlist Duo — that suggests two active ingredients could result in greater toxicity to non-target plants.”

2,4-D is now used on other crops, including wheat, and on pastures and home lawns. It is the world’s most popular herbicide and the third most popular in the United States, behind atrazine and glyphosate.

Groups opposed to expanded use of 2,4-D’s say they are concerned about its toxic effects and the potential for it to drift. Corn and soybeans are the nation’s largest crops, and the potential for expanded use is huge. Critics also expressed concern that weeds eventually would become resistant to the combination herbicide as they have to glyphosate, something EPA had planned to revisit.

EPA had earlier required a 30-foot buffer zone where the herbicide couldn’t be sprayed and ordered farmers to stop spraying when wind speeds exceeded 15 miles an hour.

Court blocks use of insecticide believed to contribute to bees’ disappearance

A federal appeals court has blocked the use of a pesticide over concerns about its effect on honey bees, which have mysteriously disappeared across the country in recent years.

In her opinion, Judge Mary M. Schroeder, one of three judges who sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel, wrote that the Environmental Protection Agency had initially decided to conditionally approve the chemical — sulfoxaflor  — but ordered more studies to better understand the effects of the systemic insecticide on bees.

“A few months later, however, the EPA unconditionally registered the insecticides with certain mitigation measures and a lowering of the maximum application rate,” Schroeder wrote. “It did so without obtaining any further studies.”

“Given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it,” she added.

“Because the EPA’s decision to unconditionally register was based on flawed and limited data, we conclude that the unconditional approval was not supported by substantial evidence,” the court wrote.

The product, sold in the U.S. as Transform or Closer, must be pulled from store shelves by Oct. 18.

The judgment is a huge victory for environmentalists.

Sulfoxaflor belongs to a group of insecticides known as neonicotinoids (NEE-OH-NIC-DUH-NIDES), according to the Ninth Circuit ruling. Neonicotinoids are suspected of being among several factors that have contributed to the collapse of honey bee colonies throughout the U.S.

Bees, especially honeybees, are needed to pollinate crops, and they are considered essential to the U.S. food supply.

But a disorder has caused as much as one-third of the nation’s bees to disappear each winter since 2006. A 2013 report issued by the EPA and U.S. Department of Agriculture cited a parasitic mite, multiple viruses, bacteria, poor nutrition, genetics, habitat loss and pesticides as factors for the bees’ disappearance.

“We’re certainly extremely happy,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney with the group Earthjustice, which challenged the EPA’s approval of sulfoxaflor on behalf of groups in the beekeeping industry. “It means that sulfoxaflor comes off the market while the EPA does the work it should have done a long time ago.”

Loarie said the pesticide was used on cotton in southern states, but it had only been approved on an emergency basis for one crop in California.

10 polluted mines in four states suspended after massive wastewater blowout

Site investigations and some cleanup work at 10 polluted mining complexes in four states were suspended because of conditions similar to those that led to a massive wastewater blowout from an inactive Colorado gold mine, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials said.

The sites include three in California, four in Colorado, two in Montana and one in Missouri, according to details obtained by The Associated Press following repeated requests for the information.

They have the potential for contaminated water to build up inside mine workings, EPA Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus said. That would set the stage for a possible spill such as last month’s near Silverton, Colorado, where an EPA team triggered a 3 million gallon blowout of toxic sludge while doing excavation work on the inactive Gold King Mine.

The accident fouled rivers in three states and attracted harsh criticism of the EPA for not being prepared despite prior warnings that such a spill could happen.

“We want to take extra caution before we initiate any work,” Stanislaus said of the work suspensions. Some the mines were abandoned decades ago and have grown more unstable over time, raising the risk of an accident.

The stop-work order was issued last month but officials for weeks refused to disclose specifics.

Cleanup efforts on some of the mines have been going on for years yet remain unfinished, underscoring the complexity of a long-running attempt to address an estimated 500,000 abandoned mines across the U.S. Work on others was in the early stages.

In a report to Congress delivered Friday, the Government Accountability Office said federal agencies identified thousands of contaminated mine sites in recent years _ even as their attempts to assess what harm is being done to people and the environment have lagged.

Further investigations were needed to gauge the danger posed by the 10 mining complexes under the suspension before work could safely resume, according to internal EPA documents released by the agency.

That includes categorizing their level of hazard. For those deemed a “probable hazard,” the EPA plans to keep the work stoppage in place until emergency plans are drawn up to deal with any accident.

The agency also wants to get the results of an Interior Department investigation into the Colorado accident before proceeding on most of the other sites. That’s expected in late October, department officials said.

Prior to the Aug. 5 Gold King spill, the EPA and its contractor, Environmental Restoration LLC of St. Louis, appeared to have only a cursory emergency response plan in the event of a spill, according to documents released under public records requests.

There was no cellphone coverage at the remote site in the San Juan Mountains, and the workers did not have a satellite phone, according to EPA documents. As a result, they had no way to immediately communicate with the outside world when the rust-colored water loaded with heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, began rushing toward downstream communities.

One of the sites where cleanup work was subsequently halted was the Standard Mine in the mountains above Crested Butte, a ski town in west-central Colorado. Crested Butte Mayor Aaron Huckstep said that after work was suspended, the EPA met with residents and officials and made sure cleanup workers could communicate directly with the town in an emergency.

“They understood that they needed to make sure that the communication channels and the communication protocols were in place and the folks knew who to call and when to call them,” Huckstep said.

EPA documents show wastewater at the site periodically spills over a crudely-built impoundment, raising concerns about a potential catastrophic failure and the possibility of tainting Crested Butte’s drinking water. But Huckstep said he didn’t believe the Standard Mine was a threat to blow out, based on EPA statements and differences in the land.

The EPA said the town’s water meets safety standards.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesman Warren Smith said wastewater flowing from the mine was not considered an acute health threat. Work on the site resumed Sept. 4 after officials determined appropriate safety measures were in place.

The Aug. 12 stop-work order from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy did not apply to sites where halting operations would pose a threat to people or increase the potential for harm to the environment, according to internal EPA documents.

Also exempted were portions of the 10 stopped projects where construction already was completed, such as treatment systems for contaminated water that pours continually from many abandoned mine shafts.

That’s the case for two sites listed in northern California — the Leviathan sulfur mine near the town of Markleeville and the Iron Mountain metals mine near Redding. Water continues to be collected at the sites, to be treated and then discharged.

We have not received any direction from EPA to shut down our treatment. It’s been business as usual for us out there,” said Scott Ferguson with the Lahonton Regional Water Quality Control Board, which is involved with the Leviathan mine.

EPA spokeswoman Laura Allen said other work at the two mines has stopped, including plans to remove a beaver dam at Leviathan.

Erin Brockovich accuses feds of lying about toxic spill

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, made famous from the Oscar-winning movie bearing her name, this week accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of lying about how much toxic wastewater spilled from a Colorado mine and fouled rivers in three Western states.

Her allegation came during a visit to the nation’s largest American Indian reservation, where she saw the damage and met with Navajo Nation leaders and farmers affected by last month’s spill, which was triggered by an EPA crew during excavation work.

Brockovich said she was shocked by the agency’s actions leading up to the release of waste tainted with heavy metals and its response afterward.

“They did not tell the truth about the amount. There were millions and millions of gallons,” she said while speaking to a crowd of high school students in Shiprock, New Mexico.

The EPA did not immediately respond to email and telephone requests for comment. The agency initially pegged the spill at 1 million gallons but later said it was likely three times that amount given the readings of stream gauges that recorded a spike in river flows.

The revision only added to the suspicion of local officials that were criticizing the agency for failing to notify them sooner that the contaminated plume was headed downstream.

Uncertainty lingers over the long-term dangers to public health and the environment from the spill, which contaminated rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. EPA says the threat has eased, allowing treatment plants to start drawing water from the rivers again and ending warnings against recreational activities. But Navajo leadership is skeptical.

A series of congressional hearings investigating the spill will begin Wednesday. Republican committee leaders in the House and Senate say that EPA officials have withheld documents that could explain what went wrong.

Navajo President Russell Begaye also questions the number of gallons released. He recounted for Brockovich what he saw during an unannounced visit to the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, days after the spill. He said he saw a wide gully that was several feet deep and water continuing to pour out of the mine.

Some Navajo irrigation systems remain shuttered until the tribe receives results from its own water and sediment testing. As a result, Begaye has said thousands of acres of crops have gone dry.

Begaye and Brockovich met with farmers to discuss the effects of the spill on irrigation as well as the legacy of contamination left behind by decades of uranium mining.

During the stop in Shiprock, they told the students that it will be up to the next generation to hold government and private industry accountable.

“It’s a terrible disaster, and unfortunately it’s a situation we see playing itself out not only on the Navajo Nation, but across the United States of America,” Brockovich said, referring to pollution and lax enforcement.

“You are the future and you will be the answers,” she told the students.

Brockovich was portrayed in the 2000 movie, “Erin Brockovich,” which earned actress Julia Roberts an acting Oscar. The environmental advocate helped investigate a major case of groundwater contamination in California in the early 1990s that inspired the film.

As for the Gold King spill, Brockovich said the federal government needs to clean up the mess.

Navajo officials say the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the EPA have declined the tribe’s requests for continued help, including the appointment of a federal recovery coordinator.

A FEMA spokeswoman said the EPA was the lead agency and would be responsible for coordinating with the tribe and other local governments.

Environmental groups disappointed with EPA rule on coal ash

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Dec. 19 issued long-delayed federal regulations for coal ash, but failed to fix major pollution problems from the disposal of coal ash waste, including contamination of rivers and drinking water supplies, according to leading environmental groups.

“Today’s rule doesn’t prevent more tragic spills like the ones we are still trying to clean up in North Carolina and Tennessee. And it won’t stop the slower moving disaster that is unfolding for communities around the country, as leaky coal ash ponds and dumps poison water,” said Earthjustice attorney Lisa Evans.

The rule treats coal ash — a byproduct in the burning of coal to generate electricity — as solid waste. Environmentalists had hoped for the EPA to treat coal ash as hazardous waste.

The new rule fails to phase out the practice of storing toxic waste in unlined “ponds” behind earthen dams that can be structurally unstable and prone to failure, according to Earthjustice. The group said the EPA’s approach lets the utility industry police itself. 

“While EPA’s coal ash rule takes some long overdue steps to establish minimum national groundwater monitoring and cleanup standards, it relies too heavily on the industry to police itself, ” said Eric Schaeffer, executive director of the Environmental Integrity Project. “The devil is in the details, and we will review the regulation closely for loopholes. But regardless of what the rule requires, companies like Duke Energy, First Energy and TVA have already learned that spills and leaking ash ponds add up to billions of dollars in cleanup costs.” 

The rule requires closure of some inactive ponds, such as the one that failed on the Dan River in North Carolina, but it only mandates closure of ponds that are located on the site of active facilities.

“This power industry has had half a century or more to clean up its act, but even in the face of huge spills and a terrible record of proven water contamination around the country, it is still dumping ash in huge unlined pits,” said Evans. “These dumps aren’t going away by themselves, and unfortunately under today’s rule, EPA is putting the burden on citizens to get them safely closed.”

The rule requires water quality monitoring and public disclosure of the results, which should help citizens to track damage from dumps and to go to court to force clean-ups. However, there are concerns that coal plant operators will not reliably identify, report and remedy water contamination and structural risks without independent oversight.

When she heard about the new regulations, Esther Calhoun, of Uniontown, Alabama, who lives near a coal ash dump, said, “It seems like the EPA doesn’t give a damn about people.”

Calhoun lives near the Arrowhead landfill, which received 4 million cubic yards of coal ash form the 2008 Kingston disaster.

“Our people have heart attacks and breathing problems. They’re dealing with this big mountain of coal ash in their face.  This is a civil rights issue just as much as an environmental and health one,” Calhoun said.

Coal ash is the toxic waste formed from burning coal in power plants to make electricity. It contains arsenic, lead, mercury and hexavalent chromium. Coal ash — the second largest industrial waste stream in the United States — is linked to the four leading causes of death in the United States — heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and stroke.

Earthjustice said unsafe disposal of coal ash has contaminated more than 200 rivers, lakes, streams and sources of underground drinking water in 37 states.

Coal ash regulations were proposed in 2010 following the largest toxic waste spill in U.S. history in Kingston, Tennessee, when a billion gallons of coal ash sludge destroyed 300 acres and dozens of homes. But in response to pressure from the coal power industry, the EPA delayed finalizing the proposed rule.

In 2012, Earthjustice sued EPA in federal court on behalf of 10 public interest groups and an Indian tribe to obtain a court-ordered deadline. The groups involved in the lawsuit included the Moapa Band of Paiutes, Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environmental Integrity Project, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Montana Environmental Information Center, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Western North Carolina Alliance.

In 2013, a consent decree was lodged in federal court that set a deadline of Dec. 19 for EPA’s final rule.

Schaeffer said: “EPA’s coal ash rule is too little and too late. Too little because its standards are minimal, vague and unenforceable. Too late, because damage from collapsing dikes and leaking ash dumps has accumulated in the absence of common sense rules designed to prevent those disasters.”

Scott Slesinger, legislative director for the National Resources Defense Council, added, “The EPA is bowing to coal-fired utilities’ interests and putting the public at great risk by treating toxic coal ash as simple garbage instead of the hazardous waste that it is. Too much of the agency’s new rule is left to the discretion of states, which all too often have favored powerful utility companies instead of the public.

“Unlike the majority of environmental standards — which are backstopped by federal enforcement — this rule all but leaves people who live near coal ash dumps to fend for themselves.”

Journalists, scientists oppose EPA muzzling of experts

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must not interfere with leading national scientists from talking to media outlets and the public, says a coalition of journalists and scientists concerned with the an agency memorandum instructing Science Advisory Board members to get permission before talking to the press.

“The EPA wants to control what information the public receives about crucial issues affecting Americans’ health and well-being,” Society of Professional Journalists president David Cuillier said in a news release. “The people are entitled to get this information unfiltered from scientists, not spoon-fed by government spin doctors who might mislead and hide information for political reasons or to muzzle criticism.”

The SPJ, Society of Environmental Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press along with the American Geophysical Union, the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Society for Conservation Biology sent a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy demanding the agency reverse its policy.

“If EPA scientists — or any other scientists — can’t tell reporters what they know, then the public is likelier to remain in the dark,” said Joseph A. Davis, director of SEJ’s WatchDog Project. “That makes it easier for political appointees to mislead the public about environmental issues that may critically affect their health.”

Press groups in recent years have criticized the EPA for increasing roadblocks to information. For example, during the Elk River water crises in West Virginia earlier this year, the EPA stonewalled reporters seeking to find out how the released chemicals would affect citizens.

The memo would extend EPA’s already-restrictive vetting requirements for responding to external requests for information to independent scientists who advise the agency. The memo states: “If a representative member receives a request from a source that they do not represent or if a (special government employee) receives a request related to (their) employment from a non-EPA source (such as a member of the press, a trade association, or other non-governmental organization, or members of Congress or their staff), the…member should forward that request to” a designated agency employee, who will either “respond to the request or will forward it to the appropriate office within the Agency for response.”

Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says that it’s inappropriate for the agency to place these restrictions on independent scientists. The memo contradicts current guidelines for advisory board members and also cuts against EPA’s own scientific integrity policy, which is supposed to guarantee agency scientists the right to speak with journalists and outside groups about their work.

Settlement requires federal review of pesticides’ impact on endangered species

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must examine the impact of five common pesticides on endangered animals across the nation under the terms of a settlement with an environmental advocacy group.

The FWS must review carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, malathion and methomyl. These pesticides are toxic to wildlife and may threaten human health, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

“We don’t think these chemicals should even be in use, but at the very least, measures to protect endangered wildlife should have been put in place when these chemicals were first approved,” said Collete Adkins Gieske, an attorney with CBD.

U.S. law — the Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act — authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency to review and approve pesticides for commercial use. However, according to CBD, the EPA routinely fails to consult on the potential impact of those pesticides on endangered species with Fish and Wildlife.

The environmental group previously sued the EPA for failing to consult with Fish and Wildlife on the impact of pesticides on California red-logged frogs and secured an injunction restricting pesticide use until such consultation took place.

However, in 2013, when the government still had not completed the consultation, the CBD filed another complaint.

In a settlement agreement announced on this week, Fish and Wildlife said it would complete the review within five years.

In addition, FWS will look at the impact of the pesticides on all endangered species in the United States, not just the red-legged frogs.

CBD says that in the United States more than a billion pounds of pesticides are used, but most of the pesticides with EPA approval were not evaluated for impacts on wildlife.

“Governmental agencies have a legal and moral duty to ensure that harmful chemicals aren’t sprayed in the same places where vulnerable wild animals are trying to survive,” said Adkins Giese. “Pesticides found in endangered species habitat can also contaminate our drinking water, food, homes and schools, where they pose a disturbing health risk.”

Too darn hot: Ben & Jerry’s, Climate Reality partner on environmental campaign

Nothing says summer heat like a melting ice cream cone. That’s why The Climate Reality Project is teaming up with Ben & Jerry’s to turn the celebrated symbol of the season — the ice cream truck — into a rallying point for action against climate disruption.

Climate Reality and Ben & Jerry’s have partnered in the I’m Too Hot Campaign and are bringing ice cream trucks to the four cities hosting Environmental Protection Agency hearings on the Obama administration’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

Hearings will be place July 29-Aug. 1 in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington D.C.

When the trucks roll in, activists will talk with people about the proposed EPA plan and also serve icy treats.

“We are excited to partner with Ben & Jerry’s to bring both ice cream and information about the EPA’s proposed rule to the people,” said Climate Reality CEO Ken Berlin. “This past May was the hottest in recorded history, and was an example of the kinds of records that will keep being broken as our summers get hotter from climate change driven by carbon pollution. These EPA hearings are a crucial opportunity for people to let the EPA know they support the agency’s efforts to reduce harmful carbon pollution, and we’ll be there to make sure our supporters don’t get too hot.”

The proposed plan would provide the first-ever national standards to limit the amount of carbon pollution existing power plants can produce — aiming to cut emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The EPA estimates that the rule would provide significant economic and health benefits, including the prevention of 150,000 asthma attacks and 6,600 premature deaths annually by 2030 as well as the creation of 76,000 to 112,000 new jobs in 2025 by expanding the energy efficiency sector alone.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is open for public comment until Oct. 16.

“The rule would be a critical step towards holding polluters accountable for the carbon pollution they dump into the atmosphere – but first, it’s up to us – the people – to make sure we support the EPA’s efforts and the rule becomes law,” said Berlin.

The EPA hearings are July 29-30 in Atlanta, July 29-30 in Denver, July 31-Aug. 1 in Pittsburgh and July 29-30 in Washington.

Supporters of the plan can tweet the EPA — @EPA — and use the hashtags #ImTooHot and #ActOnClimate.

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Former top Republican environmentalists urge Congress to act on climate change

Top environmental regulators for four Republican presidents told Congress on June 18 what many Republican lawmakers won’t: Action is needed on global warming.

In a congressional hearing organized to undermine Republican opposition to President Barack Obama’s environmental proposals, Senate Democrats asked the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency for Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan to discuss the risks from climate change and what should be done about it. Some Republicans dispute the science of climate change and have worked to unravel Obama’s steps to address it.

Action on Capitol Hill —where even a bland, bipartisan energy efficiency bill couldn’t get passed in May — has been in a deep freeze.

“We have a scientific consensus around this issue. We also need a political consensus,” said Christine Todd Whitman, the former New Jersey Governor and first EPA administrator under President George W. Bush, who resigned her post after disagreeing with the White House’s direction on pollution rules.

Whitman was joined by William Ruckelshaus, the nation’s first EPA administrator under President Richard Nixon, William Reilly, who led the EPA under President George H.W. Bush, and Lee Thomas, who was administrator under Reagan.

The strategy by Democrats was reminiscent of other high-profile hearings on climate change that created fanfare but resulted in little action. In March, Democrats staged an all-nighter on the Senate floor to talk climate change. In 2009, former Vice President Al Gore and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich sparred before a House committee over climate change. Climate scientist James Hansen in 1988 told the Senate the planet is warming and pollution is to blame.

The EPA chiefs’ testimony apparently did little to bridge the divide. Coal miners packed the hearing to protest a new EPA plan to cut carbon dioxide pollution from power plants. Before any testimony, top Republicans on the Senate environmental panel said the rule would kill jobs for no environmental benefit.

That view contrasted sharply with the opinions of the four EPA administrators, who said the Obama administration had worked hard to make the proposal flexible and workable, using authority provided by Congress.

The former EPA administrators told lawmakers that global warming was similar to other serious environmental issues they confronted, such as industrial pollution, dangerous pesticides or water contamination. But tackling those issues enjoyed broad public support.

“Inherent in all of these problems was uncertain science and powerful economic interests resisting controls. The same is true of climate change,” said Ruckelshaus, who also led the agency under Reagan. “In all of the cases cited, the solutions to the problems did not result in the predicted economic and social calamity.”

The four EPA chiefs also said that they are not alone in the Republican party.

“There are Republicans that believe the climate is changing and humans have a role to play. They just need some political cover,” said Whitman, in an interview before the hearing.

Reilly was even more direct.

“There is a lot happening on climate,” he said, citing efforts by states and corporations to tackle the problem. “It’s just not happening in Washington.”

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