DENVER (AP) — To retired coal miner Stanley Sturgill, the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rules limiting pollution from power plants doesn’t do enough to protect the public’s health.
Sturgill, a retired coal miner from Harlan County, Kentucky, who traveled to a public hearing about the rules Tuesday in Denver, told the EPA that coal-fired plants are crippling his health and that of the public. Sturgill said he suffers from black lung and other respiratory diseases.
“The rule does not do nearly enough to protect the health of the front-line communities,” he said. “We’re dying, literally dying, for you to help us.”
But at the same hearing, John Kinkaid, a Moffat County, Colorado, commissioner, told the EPA that the rules would devastate his area, home to a major power plant. “Energy is the lifeblood of our economy. Moffat County deserves better than to be turned into another Detroit, Michigan,” he said.
The sharply divergent views about the proposed rules were among the many different comments made as the EPA launched hearings Tuesday in Denver, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., on President Barack Obama’s plan to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030, with 2005 levels as the starting point. The rules are intended to curb global warming.
Utility and coal company representatives said the rules were unclear and unreasonable, and they warned that jobs and communities could suffer. Renewable-energy executives said their industry will bring jobs, profits and innovations. Grandparents admonished the EPA to do more to protect children.
Georgia utility regulator Lauren “Bubba” McDonald told the EPA in Atlanta that the rules are an unnecessary intervention by the federal government.
“Please leave us alone,” McDonald said. “We set these goals ourselves, and we know how to achieve them.”
But Jim Doyle, a former Commerce Department official in the Clinton administration, said at the Atlanta hearing that the benefits of fighting climate change outweigh the potential costs of extreme weather blamed on global warming.
“Over the past four years, American factories have been disrupted by typhoons in Thailand, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, droughts in Texas, tornadoes in Kentucky, falling water levels across the Great Lakes and flooding in the Northeast,” he said.
The hearings in Denver, Atlanta and Washington will continue Wednesday, and a hearing in Pittsburgh will start on Thursday. The EPA expects 1,600 people to speak in the four cities and has already received more than 300,000 written comments, which will be accepted until Oct. 16.
With only five minutes each to address the agency, scores of advocates in Denver staged rallies for or against the proposed rules.
“They’re basically trying to shut down coal, which takes away my job,” said Mike Zimmerman, a foreman at northwestern Colorado’s Twentymile Mine, who attended a rally sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.
At a rally staged by Colorado Moms Know Best, Jaime Travis said the rules would cause some disruption but should be implemented. “It won’t be painless. But as a mother, I am truly worried about the future, not just of my state, but the country and the world,” she said.
Denver is the only city to host hearings in the West, where the topic of air pollution traditionally sets off a loud debate over environmental values and economic vitality. Three of the top 10 coal-producing states are in the West — Wyoming, Montana and Colorado. Wyoming is No. 1, producing nearly 40 percent of the U.S. total and more than three times as much as West Virginia, the No. 2 state, according to the National Mining Association.
States would have wide latitude in choosing how to meet the administration’s goals. That leaves an uncertain fate for some of the West’s large coal-fired power plants, including Montana’s 2,100-megawatt Colstrip plant.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, has said at least some of Colstrip’s four units could keep operating if the state can cut emissions in other areas.
Four plants on tribal land in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah will be dealt with under a separate proposal yet to be announced.
Even without the new rules, coal plants face increasing pressure from regulators to rein in other forms of pollution. Federal officials said Monday that Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station will produce one-third less energy by 2020 and could close by 2044 under a rule aimed at reducing haze-causing nitrogen oxide pollution.
Guidelines to submit written comments to the EPA: http://tinyurl.com/qetmzaj
Henry reported from Atlanta. AP writers Matthew Brown in Billings, Montana, and Felicia Fonseca in Flagstaff, Arizona, contributed to this report.