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EPA hosts second day of public hearings in Charleston

By ANDREA LANNOM

The Register-Herald

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — The second day of public comment on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan concluded Wednesday with many speakers expressing concern over the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hosting its lone public hearing in Charleston.

From left, Reid Harvey, director, Clean Air Markers Division, Office of Air and Radiation, Cosmo Servidio, regional administrator, and Donna Mastro, associate regional counsel, listened to testimonies during the EPA hearing on the repeal of the Clean Plower Plan held at the State Capitol.
(Register-Herald photo by Rick Barbero)

Hearings started Tuesday in three separate meeting rooms in the state Capitol. It continued Wednesday with more than 50 people scheduled to speak, but utilizing only one meeting room.

The hearings adjourned Wednesday with the EPA taking comments under advisement. Written comments will be received through Jan. 16.

Many people called for the EPA to host more public hearings around the country. The EPA’s sole scheduled hearing took place in Charleston.

David Lillard was among those who questioned the EPA’s decision to have its only hearing in Charleston. Lillard said he got up around 4:30 Wednesday morning and made the five-hour drive from Shepherdstown to voice his opinion.

“As a West Virginian, I’m insulted at the choice of this location,” Lillard told the panel. “Because it’s great TV to have coal barons talk about saving pennies on coal but it’s great theater to have desperate coal miners carrying the message that the coal barons have lied to them repeatedly.”

Lillard said he would like for the EPA to host more hearings across the country. He mentioned his own 300-mile commute, saying people from other states faced even longer trips.

“Even within the state, I drove 300 miles to get here,” he said. “How can people across the country have the opportunity to attend public hearings? It seemed like anti-democracy to pick a place where they knew coal was operating and think they were expecting everyone who spoke from West Virginia would be supportive of repealing the plan. However, that’s not what they’ve heard.”

Lillard said he didn’t view the Clean Power Plan as perfect but said he felt it could be improved.

“Carbon pollutants must be regulated,” he said. “To scrap the plan without having another in place dealing with carbon is in defiance of the Supreme Court and a failure to uphold the constitution.”

Lillard wasn’t the only one who asked the EPA to host more hearings. Several people throughout the day called for more hearings. Robert Klee, commissioner of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said in his view, the EPA treated public hearings as a “cruel joke by hosting its one and only hearing in coal country.”

Michael Myers, assistant attorney general from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office, said New York City plans to host its own public hearing.

“The attorney general, along with the city of New York, will hold a public forum in December to ensure residents are heard,” Myers said. “The EPA is welcome to join us in that event.”

Myers, as others who opposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan, mentioned environmental concerns citing flooding and hurricanes. He also mentioned concerns about health especially regarding cases of asthma resulting from smog.

“Leading scientists say we need to act now to cut greenhouse gas,” Myers said. “The Clean Power Plan is an important step in doing so.”

People who spoke in favor of repealing the Clean Power Plan cited fears of losing coal jobs and negatively affecting the economies of West Virginia and other energy states.

Bill Bissett, president of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, said his concern is that the Clean Power Plan would “plunge the state into economic hardship” and, in his view, would have little effect on reducing global carbon levels.

“We are a state with economic challenges and we need to protect and expand economic advantages that we have,” Bissett told the panel. “The low cost of electricity from coal gives us a tremendous advantage to attract and retain businesses.”

Vicky Sullivan, who serves as associate vice president of policy development for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, said in her view, the Clean Power Plan exceeded the EPA’s statutory authority under the Clean Air Act. She also mentioned concerns that if implemented, the plan would cost consumers.

The Clean Power Plan was issued in 2015 by the Obama administration and set new greenhouse gas regulations by imposing stronger carbon dioxide limits on states. This represented a 32 percent cut by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. Under the plan, states had until 2022 to comply.

Shortly after the plan was issued, 27 states (including West Virginia), 24 trade associations, 37 rural electric co-ops and three labor unions challenged the plan.

The U.S. Supreme Court later stayed the Clean Power Plan and halted its implementation. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a notice indicating the EPA’s intent to review the Clean Power Plan following an executive order from President Donald Trump. Last month, the EPA proposed to repeal the Clean Power Plan.

Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @AndreaLannom

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