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November 20, 2009

Hundreds Speak Out In Support of EPA Global Warming Rule

This is a guest post by Greg Haegele, deputy executive director of the Sierra Club, who has a regular weekly column on Treehugger.com.

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Sierra Club's Mary Anne Hitt, Carl Pope and Lyndsay Moseley (R to L) stake out the front row of the Arlington EPA hearing.

This week we saw some amazing public action as part of the two Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hearings on its proposed tailoring rule, which we call the "Big Polluters" rule.

Right now only a handful of pollution sources, including coal-fired power plants, are responsible for more than half of all of the global warming pollution in the United States. Cleaning these up is a large step towards stopping global warming, so EPA is proposing a new rule to start cleaning up these Big Polluters under the Clean Air Act. By targeting the worst offenders, the Big Polluters rule is an important step that will cut global warming pollution while still helping our economy grow.

EPA held a public hearing on this Big Polluters rule in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday, and then another in Chicago, Illinois, on Thursday. The Sierra Club got the word out, and that resulted in great crowds at each hearing who testified in support of this rule that marks one of EPA’s most important commitments yet to moving us toward a clean energy economy and away from dirty power sources like coal.
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Virginia Vennett and Sierra Club Virginia Chapter Chair Glen Besa testify in Arlington.

On Wednesday we saw supporter after supporter testify before the EPA panel in Arlington - many with great speeches and powerful stories. Mary Anne Hitt, deputy director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, called the day a huge success.

"By 10am we had filled the hearing room with about 100 people," said Hitt. "Of those who testified during the morning session, at least 75% supported the rule, and their testimony was eloquent and right on."

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The EPA panel listens intently to the Arlington speakers.

Arlington hearing attendees saw great testimony, especially the beginning of the day, when the first two speakers were Howard Feldman of the American Petroleum Institute (API), and Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. After Feldman spent his five minute testimony complaining that EPA was over-reaching its bounds with this proposed rule, Carl Pope passionately spoke on the rule's importance.

He noted that of Feldman's entire testimony, he only agreed with one thing: that Congress should be working on climate legislation - except that he was confused as to why API was lobbying so strongly against it if Feldman was speaking out in favor.

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Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope (L) speaks as API's Howard Feldman looks on.

As for API's statement on leaving climate change action to Congress, that sentiment was echoed by a few other industry-groups who testified as well - including the National Association of Manufacturers. Again, those pro-legislation statements are coming from groups that we've mostly seen oppose any Congressional action on climate. Interesting, to say the least.

But why am I focusing on the very few nay-sayers who showed up in Arlington? Our folks report that the rest of the hearing was very positive. Hitt said after that opening the speakers represented a wide range of backgrounds - environmental groups, faith organizations, private citizens and others.

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Sierra Club volunteers and staff meet outside the hearing room in Arlington.

Said one citizen testifier: "We really need to think about the costs of inaction."

Sierra Club staffer Heather Moyer said she was inspired by many who spoke in favor of the Big Polluters rule.

"Our volunteers and other fantastic members of the public called the rule 'necessary,' said we must stop global warming,' and that 'this rule is common sense,'" said Moyer. "They also frequently pointed out that unlike the industry testifiers, no one paid them to be there - they came because they see how important this rule is in the fight to stop global warming and clean up the biggest polluters in the U.S."

The positive accolades for this proposed Big Polluters rule continued Thursday in Chicago, where our organizers started the day off with a big pre-hearing press conference. Becki Clayborn, a Sierra Club representative in Illinois, called the day a huge success - noting that EPA even delayed the beginning of the hearing until the Sierra Club press conference was done so the huge crowd could then come into the hearing room.

Clayborn also touted the variety of their speakers during the day, including representatives from the health, business, and faith communities.

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The crowd in the Chicago hearing room.

"As people of faith we only know that the impacts of climate change are far-reaching and fall most heavily on the poor of the world," said one of the Chicago speakers, the Rev. Dr. Clare Butterfield, executive director of Faith in Place. "We have to do everything we can to create the kind of carbon-constrained world in which all people can flourish. We support this first step toward regulation by the EPA."

Besides climate scientists, clergy, and business leaders, they even landed Saturday Night Live alum Nora Dunn as one of the citizens who testified in support of the Big Polluters rule. They also had some industry speakers on the right side of the testimony.
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"Regulating greenhouse gas emissions is an important step to protect the health of the earth and ourselves," said Jody R. Nord from Bauer Power, a Midwestern clean energy company. "Businesses such as Bauer Power will be able to prosper under such regulation, as it will create an economy that demands renewable energy and energy efficiency."

Clayborn said her team also held a mid-day discussion with a panel of climate scientists and health experts where more than 50 people gathered to listen and ask questions.

While the Chicago hearing had its few naysayers for the Big Polluters rule as well - we can easily say that both hearings saw an overwhelming outpouring of support for this common sense global warming pollution rule from EPA.

Have you submitted your comments on the Big Polluters rule yet? Do it now!


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