Encouraging EPA to Strengthen Air Quality Standards
Feb 24, 2023
At every turn, the Trump administration has prioritized polluters over people. They’re now working to replace President Obama’s Clean Power Plan with a rule that could lead to 1,400 premature deaths, by the administration’s own calculation. In fact, this administration is so intent on shutting people out of the decision-making process that they only held one public hearing, in Chicago, to gather input on the proposal, which is more accurately titled the Dirty Power Scam.
The Clean Power Plan was the biggest step we’ve ever taken to combat the catastrophic impacts of climate change and would have helped us to meet our Paris Climate Agreement goals. Climate change is affecting our communities right now — from devastating wildfires record flooding, droughts to more powerful hurricanes. We must ensure moving forward that communities – particularly low income and communities of color – no longer suffer from the negative consequences of this administration’s attacks on our health and inaction on climate change.
Three members of LCV and Chispa staff flew to Chicago to ensure that our opposition to this disastrous proposal was heard.
Julio Zuniga, an organizer for Chispa Arizona, shared the struggles of the high school students he coaches in the South of Phoenix, Arizona: “It’s difficult to see so many of them suffer from debilitating respiratory illnesses. Our high school is located in a highly polluted area … This Dirty Power Scam is unacceptable. We cannot put the lives of Latino children at risk, causing them to miss academic and athletic opportunities because of preventable asthma attacks.”
Katherine Lorenzo, a senior organizer for Chispa Nevada, told the EPA that, “Repealing and replacing the Clean Power Plan would be a direct attack on Latino communities who already disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change … Latinos are suffering from asthma at higher rates and paying the price with their health, jobs and future. I know because I see it daily — in fellow organizers, in volunteers, and in their children.”
As Sara Chieffo, LCV’s vice president of Government Affairs, said, “This draft proposal also fails to do what’s best for the tens of millions of people in this country who suffer from asthma and other respiratory ailments exacerbated by air pollution. It perpetuates the environmental and systemic racism in this country that has meant communities of color and lower income communities are the ones bearing the brunt of our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.”
Read Julio, Katherine, and Sara’s full testimonies below:
Hello, my name is Julio Zuniga. I’m an organizer with Chispa Arizona, a grassroots organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters. I’m here today to ask that you reject the Trump Administration’s proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan and deny their efforts to replace it with this Dirty Power Scam that would put my community at risk.
I want to share with you today what it’s like to watch your students struggle to breathe each day.
I’m a high school coach in south side Phoenix, an area of town where many families of color live. I coach the girl’s track and field team, a group of motivated young women who are dreaming of earning scholarships for college. Most of my students come from black or Latino families of modest means, families who likely can’t afford to send their kids to college without financial help. As a Latino immigrant who grew up poor and undocumented, and who struggled to make it through college, I know what that’s like. I’m very proud of my team and of my student athletes.
That’s why it’s been difficult to see so many of them suffer from debilitating respiratory illnesses. Our high school is located in a highly polluted area, just a couple of miles from a major airport, three freeways, and a few industrial plants. Several of my students run and train each day with inhalers in their pockets. Four out of 20 students in my team have had asthma attacks in practice. Four. Four times in the field over the last year I’ve witnessed young girls buckle in pain, struggling to breathe.
I’ll never forget the first time this happened, when my student Jessica started gasping for air in front of me. I didn’t know what to do or how to help. At first I thought she was suffering from an anxiety attack, until it became obvious that breathing — the very act of breathing — was the problem.
Jessica got so sick from her respiratory illness that she spent weeks in the hospital and didn’t return to school for about a month. Once she came back, she was too weak to continue training. Her season was over. Jessica is a sophomore in high school and this set her back a full year in track and field. This significantly diminishes her chances of receiving an athletic scholarship for college.
As a coach, you’re used to being a little tough on your students. You want to motivate them, and you don’t want to hear excuses. But now I know, if one of my students says they can’t run, five times out of ten it’s because they’re struggling with their asthma. And so now I’m asking a new set of questions at each practice: Did you bring your inhaler? How’s your asthma today? Are you having trouble breathing?
It’s heartbreaking to be in this position. But it’s not surprising. Communities of color like the ones my students come from are much more likely to bear the burden of pollution. Families of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with higher levels of toxins in the air. Latinos are 60% more likely to visit the hospital for asthma than their non-Hispanic white peers. Latino children are twice as likely to die from asthma attacks compared to non-Hispanic white children.
You heard that right: Latino children are twice as likely to end up in the hospital from asthma attacks. In Arizona, the American Lung Association has found there are 131,515 kids suffering from childhood asthma. Earlier this year, the ALA ranked the Phoenix metropolitan area as the 8th most ozone-polluted city in the nation. These levels of pollution don’t just affect the kids struggling to breathe; they hurt their entire family. Parents have to miss work, students have to miss school and families rack up tremendous medical bills in doctors’ visits or hospitalizations, not to mention the emotional toll.
I see these ripple effects each day not only as a coach, but as an organizer for Chispa Arizona. I joined Chispa because after seeing the injustices low-income and communities of color endure, I wanted to work for an organization that was fighting not only for the environment but for my community and my students’ rights to clean air and healthy futures. Working with Chispa, I’ve been able to advocate for an end to fossil fuel pollution, from asking Arizona to transition from diesel-powered school buses to electric, zero-emission school buses to calling on our elected officials to support 50% renewable energy by 2050.
Today, I feel a lot less powerless than I did that terrifying afternoon, watching Jessica suffer from an asthma attack. Because I know now that we can do better for our kids. The Clean Power Plan would help protect communities like ours by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. If enacted, the Clean Power Plan could prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks in children, 300,000 missed work and school days, and 3,600 premature deaths every year by 2030. In comparison, the Trump administration’s proposal could cost up to 1,4000 lives every year by 2030.
This Dirty Power Scam is unacceptable. We cannot put the lives of Latino children at risk, causing them to miss academic and athletic opportunities because of preventable asthma attacks. By repealing the Clean Power Plan and replacing it with this Dirty Power Scam, we are robbing our children of a healthy future.
Our kids need and deserve to live in communities with clean air. I ask you to reject this proposal and instead implement the Clean Power Plan.
Hello and thank you for the opportunity to testify today. My name is Katherine Lorenzo and I am from Las Vegas. I’m here today as a Senior Organizer for Chispa Nevada, a grassroots organizing program of the League of Conservation Voters, and I’ve come to ask that you reject Donald Trump and Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s Dirty Power Scam.
Being an organizer is something I’m truly passionate about. I started community organizing as a teenager, registering people to vote in the Southern Nevada Latino neighborhoods I grew up in. Since joining Chispa Nevada two years ago, I’ve come to meet and learn from dozens if not hundreds of mothers, fathers, children, students, and community members concerned about climate change, environmental pollution, and the futures of the next generation. Since learning of the Trump administration’s plan to repeal and replace the Clean Power Plan, we’ve been even more worried.
Repealing and replacing the Clean Power Plan would be a direct attack on Latino communities who already disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change. In Nevada, our communities are struggling to breathe in cities and counties that have received failing grades. Las Vegas has already been ranked the 12th most polluted city in the nation by the American Lung Association this year. More than 44,000 children and more than 180,000 adults currently suffer from asthma in the state. Latinos are suffering from asthma at higher rates and paying the price with their health, jobs and future. I know because I see it daily — in fellow organizers, in volunteers, and in their children.
I see it in Jacob, one of our youth promotores. Jacob is just a teenager, but he’s suffered from asthma for years, His asthma has gotten so bad that he’s taking steroids. His family has had their entire lives changed because of this, having to alter their daily routines and budgets to fit in more doctors visits and trips to the hospital. I see it in Pablo, Jacob’s friend, who was just diagnosed with asthma and is beginning a new, difficult journey. I see it in William, the three-year old son of our state program director who had his first asthma attack this summer and spent nearly a week in the hospital, breathing through tubes.
Yet asthma attacks are preventable and the effects of climate change can be reduced, and at Chispa Nevada, we’re fighting back by organizing Nevadans of color around the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, an effort demanding the state use Volkswagen settlement funds to replace dirty diesel school buses with zero-emission, electric school buses. We’re also calling on Nevada to embrace its clean energy potential by increasing the share of energy we get from renewables to 50 percent by 2030. And we’re giving our community members the tools they need to organize their own families and friends to speak up when they see or experience environmental injustices.
Because Latinos want our elected leaders to act. Nearly 80 percent of Latinos see climate change as a serious problem and 90 percent want to see actions taken to address it. Latinos recognize that the best way to reduce the pollution that makes climate change even worse is to transition to clean, renewable energy. In fact, 86 percent already support limiting carbon pollution from power plants, like the Clean Power Plan does.
Being an organizer, I know what it takes to get public support for a project. And we saw as the EPA received more than 8 million comments supporting the Clean Power Plan. The Trump administration has ignored this massive public support, choosing instead to put the interests of polluters above the health of the people. With this Dirty Power Scam, Wheeler is letting polluters off the hook at the expense of our health. They can’t get away with this.
What makes me excited and keeps me organizing each day is knowing that more and more of our volunteers are sharing their stories and using their voices to hold our representatives accountable. Toxic pollution is making our kids sick and our air more dangerous to breathe. Latinos want to see the Clean Power Plan be made stronger, not repealed. We won’t sit on the sidelines anymore. Latinos are calling on you to say no to this dangerous Dirty Power Scam and support the lifesaving protections of the Clean Power Plan.
Thank you for your time.
My name is Sara Chieffo, and I’m here today as a concerned mom and as the Vice President of Government Affairs at the League of Conservation Voters. The League of Conservation Voters has more than 2 million members across the country, and our mission is to turn environmental values into national, state, and local priorities. We work to advance these goals in close partnership with the Conservation Voter Movement, a network of roughly 30 state partners, including the Illinois Environmental Council.
Thank you for this opportunity. I am here to speak in strong opposition to President Trump and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s effort to gut the lifesaving Clean Power Plan and to replace it with a backwards-looking and life-threatening proposal. While this administration has branded its proposal as the Affordable Clean Energy rule, it is more accurate to call it the Dirty Power Scam.
Put simply, the EPA’s draft proposal picks polluters’ profits over people’s health and a safe and stable climate for our children and future generations. It turns a blind eye to the climate change impacts that are already harming communities across our country – from record-breaking wildfires in the West, to droughts and heatwaves, to more intense hurricanes and historic flooding that have ravaged the Carolinas, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana. Hurricane Maria was one of the deadliest storms on record and it is unacceptable that a year later Puerto Rico has still not gotten the support it needs to recover and rebuild.
This draft proposal also fails to do what’s best for the tens of millions of people in this country who suffer from asthma and other respiratory ailments exacerbated by air pollution. It perpetuates the environmental and systemic racism in this country that has meant communities of color and lower income communities in this country are the ones bearing the brunt of our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.
This proposal seeks to bury the Clean Power Plan, which set the first federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants – a major source of the pollution that exacerbates climate change – and encouraged a transition to a clean energy economy. The Clean Power Plan was the result of unprecedented public outreach that included 4 two-day public hearings and more than 8 million comments to the EPA in support of standards limiting carbon pollution from new and existing power plants – the most ever received by an agency. The Clean Power Plan also gave states the flexibility to craft their own plans to reduce emissions and transition to cleaner sources of energy.
This administration’s own analysis finds that the Clean Power Plan would have had significant climate and health benefits, including preventing as many as 4,500 premature deaths each year by 2030, preventing tens of thousands of asthma attacks, and avoiding hundreds of thousands of missed days at work and school.
This administration’s analysis admits that the draft plan we’re discussing today will lead to 1,400 deaths in 2030. This is simply unacceptable. The EPA can and must do better. The reality is that the scale of the climate crisis means the Clean Power Plan should be made stronger, not gutted.
As a young child, I can remember watching nervously as my twin sister had to be given breathing treatments at home or rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night due to another severe asthma attack. This summer, I was visiting family in Southern Oregon and the air was thick and choked with smoke from the wildfires burning across the region. The rising sun appearing as a glowing neon orb on the horizon, my young daughters complained their eyes were burning and they couldn’t breathe. It had been like this for weeks.
But despite all the overwhelming evidence and broad public support for the Clean Power Plan and climate action, Trump and Wheeler are instead focused on accommodating a few big polluters. And, this is part of a pattern that is all too familiar for this administration who, from day one, have systematically tried to block climate progress by taking the U.S. out of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, reversing course on common-sense clean car standards, and undoing methane pollution limits and more.
It is time the EPA got back to its core mission of protecting our health and our environment. That’s why I am proud to join others here today to support the lifesaving clean air protections provided by the Clean Power Plan and to say no to Trump and Wheeler’s scheme to bury them.