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Last week I brushed up my public speaking skills and summoned all the confidence of a former theater kid to testify to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its plans to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from coal and natural gas-fired power plants. Whenever the EPA proposes a new regulation (also known as a rule) it opens a public comment period during which anyone can submit a written testimony or deliver an oral testimony and the agency is required to consider and document all public comments. Anyone can testify, so I decided to contribute my perspective and urge the EPA to finalize the regulation as soon as possible while taking into account the needs of communities affected by air pollution, climate change, and the clean energy transition.
This ruling is important because—although the EPA has regulated many air pollutants since the 1970 Clean Air Act (CAA)—this will be the first time it sets enforceable limits on carbon dioxide emissions. Once implemented, the rule will require power plants to reduce their emissions using new technologies including carbon capture and hydrogen or natural gas co-firing.
Even though my studies in environmental economics and policy have focused on clean water, I knew how important this ruling is for its potential to combat climate change, curb environmental injustice, and hold polluters accountable. It will impact communities across the country, including my home state of Colorado, where coal and natural gas power plants pollute the environment and disproportionately harm the health of frontline communities. Fortunately, Colorado is now in the midst of a full phase-out of coal; however, the EPA ruling will accelerate phase-outs in states that are still clinging to coal and natural gas.
While I kept my testimony more broad, some of the most powerful testimonies that I watched came from people who spoke personally about how carbon dioxide pollution impacts their health, families, communities, and environments. Their storytelling encouraged me to speak more personally in future testimonies, and to encourage my friends and family–especially those who do not work or study in an environmental field like me–to participate in the decisions that impact them by telling their stories.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today in support of the proposed carbon pollution standards for fossil fuel fired power plants. My name is Tori Velasquez, and I am the Government Affairs Fellow at the League of Conservation Voters and a master’s student of environmental management at the Nicholas School of the Environment.
Throughout the many powerful testimonies that came before me, I am sure you have heard many accounts of the countless harms and disasters that are caused by pollution from the fossil fuel industry throughout this country and around the world.
All communities benefit from preventing the worst impacts of climate change. As many of us experienced as wildfire smoke from the north draped over half the country, there is nowhere climate change will not touch. These emissions reductions will help the U.S. catch up to its global commitments and will help protect communities at home and abroad. The stronger our restrictions of greenhouse gas emissions, the better we can protect people and the environment from the worst symptoms of climate change, from wildfires to flooding, drought, sea level rise, and biodiversity loss.
By setting limitations on harmful emissions from fossil fuel powered plants, the EPA is fulfilling its duty to set carbon pollution standards as it has been reaffirmed numerous times since Massachusetts vs EPA.
The “best systems” are ones that provide the greatest benefits and least harms to local communities and society as a whole, and ultimately the purpose of these regulations is to protect communities from the grave impacts of carbon pollution.
As we deliberate on these regulations, power plants continue to pollute communities and climate change inflicts further injury to our world. I urge the EPA to finalize stringent greenhouse gas regulations without delay. Thank you again for your time and attention.
Tori Velasquez is a Government Affairs Fellow on the Healthy Communities team at LCV and a master’s student studying environmental management, with a concentration in environmental economics and policy, at the Nicholas School of the Environment. Originally from the suburbs of Denver, CO, she now lives in Durham, NC with her rescue kitten, Luci. If you’re considering giving your own testimony, she would be happy to talk: email her at email@example.com.