Energy. Environment. Economy.

EPA hearings put Pittsburgh in the crosshairs of climate war


Note: This story is from The Allegheny Front, a public radio program covering environmental issues in Western Pennsylvania. 


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held hearings today in Pittsburgh on a proposed rule to slash greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The plan is up against serious opposition from the coal industry, but environmental groups say it doesn’t go far enough.

Competing rallies for and against the EPA’s proposed carbon rules crossed paths in Downtown Pittsburgh today.

“No planet, no jobs!” shouted those who supported the EPA proposal.

“U-M-W-A!” chanted the United Mineworkers of America and their supporters.

Mark Sunyak, 54, of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, is a retired mineworker who came to protest the rule. He said it threatened his community.

“Our jobs, our security, our families,” Sunyak said when asked why he was there. “I’m a recent retiree, my benefits may be in jeopardy.”

About three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector come from burning coal. The EPA is trying to cut emissions from electric power plants by 30 percent of 2005 levels by the year 2030. The EPA’s own analysis shows that under the plan, coal production in Appalachia would decline. But it said other energy sectors would grow, and the overall economy would benefit.

Inside the hearings, the voices of coal were evident. Cindy Frich, a state legislator from Morgantown, West Virginia, was one of them.

“I have to admit I feel these rules are existential threat to my state,” Frich said. “We’re already having problems with our state budget. I really see problems ahead if these rules are implemented.”

Frich said she worried that coal companies would be forced into bankruptcy. And those companies pay into federal programs to clean up from legacy coal mining issues.

“If you don’t have any mines left, who’s going to be paying for that cleanup?” she asked.

Natalie Tennant, West Virginia’s Secretary of State, said the federal government needs to invest more in carbon capture and sequestration in order to keep coal jobs in West Virginia.

“We are not asking for any handouts,” Tennant said. “We simply want to use what we have to earn a living.”

Under the EPA plan, states would come up with their own plan to cut down on CO2. They could increase use of nuclear energy, renewables, or natural gas. They can also improve energy efficiency in power plants in homes and businesses.

Inside the hearings, some made a moral case for curbing carbon emissions. Scientists say carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels is causing global warming.

The Rev. Bill Thwing, with the group Creation Care Partners, said politicians and scientists have known about climate change for decades.

“But they have chosen to do nothing about it except talk, and research, and study, until now when it is almost too late,” Thwing said.

The EPA has received over 300,000 comments on the plan, which is opposed by the utility industry. But environmental groups and public health groups are in favor of it. Scientists say global warming will increase the level of ground level ozone — which exacerbates asthma.

Julie Franks of Butler County, Pennsylvania, testified in favor of the rules. She brought her two sons who have asthma and have to spend much of the summer indoors.

“This one’s been in the ER tons and tons of times,” Franks said. “I can’t count how many times he’s been in the ER for asthmatic attacks.”

Franks said she feels for those who depend on coal. But she thinks the rules are necessary.

“We evolve — we’re supposed to evolve,” she said. “We’re supposed to evolve, and sadly, coal needs to evolve.”

The EPA’s deadline for a final version of the rule is June, 2015.


  • Celia Janosik

    The last sentence says it all. The earth evolved with fossil fuels underground and that is where they should stay. Jimmy Carter told us what we should be doing back in the 70′s and put a solar panel on the Whitehouse. R&D of renewable energies only, would have been the smart thing to do but the profiteers take the easy way to make money, including our government. Now we will all pay a very high price for greed. Health wealth is more important than money wealth, ask a sick person.

  • GclefGinger

    Bottom line–these measures will effect energy resources for Americans–significant cost for what? Reduction of CO2 will not signifcantly effect the climate. EPA said this themselves. Whereas the effect will create minimally heated houses and no air conditioning as these people cannot afford the cost. Thiere is a larger impact on the infirmed from lack of heat in the winter or oppressive heat in the summer.

    • Steve Todd

      Use other energy sources. Independence, Missouri is going to give it a try…unless the coal lobby derails the effort. We should too.

      • Jack Wolf

        I think we were totally sold out, Steve, by the sociopathic powers that be. They have known for decades what would would happen as greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere, and yet they only steered us to more fossil fuels. Odd thing is, they kill themselves too – money isn’t a bargaining tool with mother nature. Nothing is.

        • Steve Todd

          That’s just it though. No one doing this now sells themselves out. We will skid safely into home base, with our creature comforts intact…I used to think, although with the speed it is coming who knows? No, by avoiding making these decisions, we are guilty of a crime far worse than suicide. We are condemning all future generations to a planet less livable than the one we inhabited.

          • Jack Wolf

            Have you heard of Dr. Guy McPherson, the emeritus prof from U of AZ, Steve? I caught a lecture of his to a college class, and I think he might be right. There may not be future generations at this point, Steve. But, that does not negate our responsibility to change our path – it just means we have to throw all we’ve got into it. Because unless we recognize how seriously awful it will be, society will continue to undershoot the efforts to change the outcome. Best of luck in your run!

    • Jack Wolf

      I get annoyed when I see Americans adopting a “no-can-do” attitude. If we can up a man on the moon, we can increase renewable energy usage in a cost efficient way. In fact, in some states, wind energy costs are lower than coal’s. Plus renewables are freely provided, no mining and transport costs involved. Lastly, reduction of CO2 needs to occur immediately, or no one will have any electricity, or need of it, since we will be wiped out at the pace we are on. Each additional CO2 molecule only adds to future misery and multiplies the cost of clean-up. And, in case you haven’t noticed all the wild weather hitting us these last 10 years, its soon going to bust the bank.

  • Steve Todd

    Scary? Very. I am very scared of leaving my 12 yr old an unlivable planet. Why else would I go over 3 hours away to confront folks who would rather I die than testify in support of EPA’s regulation of our air?


  • Arlene Thomas

    It pissses me off that no bothered to mention the FACT that global warming is a freakin HOAX!!!!!

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