WASHINGTON — Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are taking their controversial power plant rule to the people this week, with a series of public hearings that could generate 1,600 comments.
In a conference call with reporters Monday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy – who testified before Congress on the rule last week – said that the hearings will give citizens a key opportunity to give their two cents on the proposal, which has generated strong pushback from the power industry and Republicans in Congress.
For McCarthy and the Obama administration, the rule is seen as a necessary step to help reduce the kind of carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. She also said the proposal was written with significant input and that it affords states flexibility to handle carbon pollution emissions within their borders.
“We don’t have to sacrifice a healthy economy for a healthy environment,” she said, seeking to rebut an argument she said is bound to come up in the hearings. “But you don’t have to take my word for it – look at the history.” She added that “we can do this in a way that keeps our energy affordable and reliable” and that “states have the smarts and the skills to pull this off.”
The hearings will be held in Atlanta, Washington, Denver and Pittsburgh, each over two 11-hour days. Speakers get five minutes. EPA officials will be on hand, although McCarthy is not attending any of the hearings.
The EPA will also take written comments – some 300,000 have already come in; all comments – written or verbal – are treated equally. Comments will be taken until Oct. 16.
The rule at issue was released last month by the Obama administration and is designed to substantially reduce carbon pollution in the nation – a process that could shutter older coal-fired power plants and spur development of more wind and other alternative energy sources. It requires that states develop plans to lower carbon pollution by specified amounts.