Activism is Not a Four Letter Word and the EPA Hearings This Week Prove It

Jill Miller ZimonThis piece was cross-posted at Writes Like She Talks.

So maybe you thought that having Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on The Daily Show would be quite the highlight of the week.

But running a close second? The EPA’s three public hearings on mercury rules, one each in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Chicago (you can listen to audio of some of the testimony here). Reports indicate that they were all exceedingly well attended. From Business Week in regard to the Philly hearings:

Several hundred people, from environmentalists and physicians to mothers and fishermen, testified before a panel of federal environmental officials in Philadelphia on Tuesday to urge the passage of proposed new standards to limit the amount of air pollution that coal-fired power plants can release into the atmosphere.

The Environmental Protection Agency listened to hours of public comment Tuesday on rules to curb emissions of mercury, arsenic, lead, nickel, chromium and acid gases from coal-fired plants. Testimony was mostly in favor of the regulations, which proponents said will reduce airborne toxins that contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

And from the Chicago Tribune on the city’s hearings:

Environmental and medical advocates urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday to adopt strict new rules regulating toxic emissions from the nation’s coal-fired power plants, saying it would reduce respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children. But some industry groups said the benefits are exaggerated.

If the proposed rules are adopted, it would be the first time that the EPA regulated toxic air emissions such as mercury, lead, arsenic and acid gas emitted by coal-fired power plants.

Coverage of the Atlanta hearing included pro and a con columns in the Atlanta Journal Constitution as well as traditional reportage after the event:

The fight over proposed new federal regulations of mercury and toxins landed Thursday in Georgia, where stakes may be among the highest in the nation.

In Georgia, coal-fired boilers produce more than 70 percent of the electricity. The state also is home to Southern Co., an economic and lobbying powerhouse as well as the largest producer of electricity – mostly from coal plants — in the Southeast.

Both sides of the debate focus largely on cost. Environmental and health care advocates say pollution from coal plants is helping drive up health care costs. Utility and manufacturing officials warn that complying with stricter environmental controls could costs millions of dollars — a price that eventually will show up in customers’ utility bills.

The Sierra Club blog includes photos and more details from the hearings, and you can read the Environmental Defense Fund’s testimony for Chicago here and Philadelphia here.

As Alternet chronicles, opponents of the regulations were far and few between and even representatives of the power industry testified in support of the regulations.  Witnesses and observers came from surrounding states just to participate.

And so, again, as I’ve written before, we see that activism isn’t a four letter word.  It isn’t even a partisan word, no matter how often it may get used to suggest a partisan tone when someone is fighting for something she believes in.  It can be as simple as working to get better food options at your kids’ school or a street sign put in where lots of children play and lots of cars drive.

Whether you want to just dip your toes or dive in completely in regard to being active on behalf of our environment and clean air, here are some ways to get started:

The EPA is continuing to accept written comments from the public, but only until August 5. Go here for a great primer on how to do that and where to send the comments.

You can follow the Moms Clean Air Force here, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Browse the EDF’s Clean the Air site for more suggestions on how to engage.

Join the online chat event on June 1, from 2 to 3pm and learn more about how you can get involved and get others involved. As you can see from the previous webinar, the information provided is stunning in terms of just how horrific and pervasive the problems are, and why these regulations are needed for all of us but especially for our children.

TOPICS: Activism, Economics, Politics, Pollution