PITTSBURGH – Competing visions for America’s energy future clashed in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s public hearings on proposed new limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants got under way.
EPA officials heard 11 hours of testimony from about 200 people from all walks of life, from private citizens to politicians and mothers to college professors, who each were given five minutes to express their views on the agency’s first-ever plan to set national carbon dioxide emissions standards on existing power plants. The hearing took place at the William S. Moorhead Federal Building on Liberty Avenue.
Emotions ran high during a midday break in the testimony as thousands of United Mine Workers of America members and supporters marched through the streets to protest the regulations, which they say threaten their livelihoods for relatively minimal benefit to the environment. Opposing them was a throng almost as large with signs calling for “Climate Action Now” and “Clean Water, Healthy Air,” who believe the government can’t afford not to take action on climate change.
As the miners filed through the intersection of Liberty Avenue and 10th Street, their chants of “Burn our coal!” and “UMWA!” mixed with those of “EPA, do your job!” from the pro-regulation crowd to create a loud din that attracted much attention as it washed through the downtown area.
The proceedings inside the Federal Building were significantly more subdued, but the discord among the opinions expressed was just as evident. The proposed rules, announced by the EPA in June, aim to cut the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions from power plants 30 percent by 2030 by setting state-specific standards and requiring each state to develop a plan by 2018 at the latest to meet its standard…