On Tuesday, January 9th, along with many other Climate Mamas and Papas, I testified in New York City in support of the Clean Power Plan; the Obama administration’s plan for the US to meet it’s stated obligations under the Paris Agreement. The Clean Power Plan is the first ever federal plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants. The plan allows for states to organize under various options to meet these carbon reduction requirements. As we see it, the plan certainly doesn’t go far enough, and, it has flaws – a big one of which is the inclusion of gas as an option. However, rather than repeal the plan, as Scott Pruitt’s EPA is proposing, we need to strengthen it and fix it.
Incredibly, the EPA did not hold one hearing in the region I live in, which includes New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, The US Virgin Islands, and 8 tribal nations. Clearly, we are on the front lines of climate change, yet Mr. Pruitt doesn’t seem to think our input is worthwhile.
Below are my written comments submitted to the EPA. Also, here is a link to a video of the afternoon hearing which I attended. ( my testimony starts around the 2:10 minute mark)
My take away from the event. We need to speak up, we need to continuing doing so, even if we are seen but not heard. The audience at the hearing was, to a person, in support of keeping the Clean Power Plan. And, it was clear to me that everyone who testified was part of the climate movement in some way, shape or form.
So, are we just talking to one another and in our own silo or bubble? Perhaps in this case we are. But, on this subject, we are clearly are not being given our public right to be heard by our government. And this practice, of shutting out the public, is not only troubling but it is dangerous. We cannot allow this to be the case, so if need be, we need to host our own Public Hearings – which we did! We are inviting everyone to speak out Join us. We will be heard…..
P.S. YOU can still send comments to the EPA on their proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan until January 16th. You can upload your comments here.
New York City People’s Hearing on the Repeal of the Clean Power Plan Afternoon Session, January 9th, 2018
Submission by: Harriet Shugarman, Executive Director, ClimateMama And Chair of the Climate Reality Project, New York City Metro Chapter
Thank you to the offices of Attorney General Schniederman and New York Mayor De Blasio, as well as to the many other partners, who organized to hold these important hearings.
I am the Executive Director of ClimateMama, an organization that reaches families in all 50 states and over 100 countries. I am also the Chair of the Climate Reality Project New York City Metro Chapter and an adjunct professor of climate change policy. In addition and perhaps most importantly, I am the mother of 2 teenagers who I raised here in EPA Region 2. On October 23rd, 2013, at a Listening Session hosted in NYC by the EPA region 2 Offices, I spoke in support of Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants. It seemed, at those hearings and in that year, that the EPA was really listening and beginning to take it’s role as a regulator of carbon pollution seriously. Now a few short years later, that job seems to have been abdicated, and we as citizens of the United States are not even being given an opportunity to speak, let alone being heard. I will be speaking today as a mother, a resident of EPA region 2, and on behalf of Climatemama.
The fact that the EPA chose to initially hold only one hearing this past fall in West Virginia on its decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan is shameful. Adding a few more under pressure was too little too late. This seems to be a continued pattern under Administrator Pruitt’s leadership of the EPA, to ignore, shut out and deny access by citizens of the United States to the EPA, while at the same time, opening the door wide for corporations to have the full attention of the Administrator and his senor staff. Thank you for giving us, the people of EPA Region 2 this opportunity to have our voices, our concerns, and our hopes heard. EPA Region 2 was set up to serve the citizens of New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight tribal nations. The impacts of climate change, which are caused in large part by fossil fuel power plant emissions, have been and continues to be deeply felt by citizens of our region. The fact that not one hearing has been held in our region is – appalling.
Our Motto at Climate Mama: “Tell the truth, actions speak louder than words, and don’t be afraid,” sentiments, as parents we all teach our children. We also teach our children early on that if you make a mess, you need to clean it up. Our Mother Earth has been showing us, in innumerable ways, that the mess we are creating on our planet, because of greenhouse emissions, is not only making her sick, but also creating situations where life for many species, including our own, is now threatened.
“Global vertebrate populations — from elephants to amphibians — declined by 58 percent from 1970 to 2012, a 2016 World Wide Fund for Nature report noted, with losses likely to reach 67 percent by 2020. That’s two-thirds of all vertebrate animals on Earth vanished in the lifetime of a person not yet 50.”
The EPA, in an October 10, 2017 press release on it’s likely decision to repeal of the clean power plan, states” “The proposed repeal both examines the Obama administration’s cost-benefit analysis, as well as provides insights to support an updated analysis of the environmental, health, and economic effects of the proposed repeal. The Trump administration estimates the proposed repeal could provide up to $33 billion in avoided compliance costs in 2030.” And yet, air pollution in the US causes as many as 50,000 deaths per year and costs as much as $40 billion a year NOW in health care and lost productivity.
Also, according to a report released January 8th by NOAA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US has sustained 219 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion, with the total cost exceeding $1.5 trillion (an average of 5.8 events per year, or in the last 5 years, an average of 11.6 per year.) In 2017 there were 16 events with loses exceeding $1 billion each across the US resulting in 362 deaths and at an economic cost of over $306 billion. This doesn’t even include the indirect costs of these disasters. As we live climate change we need to redefine the words “natural” disasters.
The EPA’s stated mission is to “protect human health and the environment,” not to help companies avoid costs and compliance with regulations that would in fact, if implemented “protect human health and the environment.” The costs of NOT addressing carbon pollution are huge and significant. The costs must be factored in to EPA decisions about regulating carbon from power plants and implementing the Clean Power Plan.
You have the science, and the facts before you, which are very clear on why we must regulate greenhouse gases, and in particular carbon pollution from power plants. These facts only become more clear with each passing year and are why, governments and international organizations the world over, are pulling away from investments in fossil fuels. This past fall, the World Bank stated it will no longer invest nor support fossil fuel projects, and many banks, investment companies and governments are divesting from fossil fuel projects, after risk assessments show these investments to be destabilizing and potential catastrophic. Yet, this administration is “doubling down” on fossil fuels and the EPA, an agency set up to protect our health and environment seems to be giving “cover” to these bad investments.
Below are some personal reflections, echoed in many similar ways by our ClimateMama members about how the lack of regulation for greenhouse gas pollutants is threatening our children’s health, welfare, future and their lives.
As a mother, I am desperately concerned for my children’s future and their NOW which is threatened by climate change. The EPA, if funded appropriately and tasked with it’s role, has a unique opportunity to have a huge, direct positive impact on my children’s future, by enforcing the Clean Power Plan, and instead of dismantling it, making it stronger and more impactful.
This past fall was the 5th Anniversary of Superstorm Sandy; last week we saw what a “bomb cyclone” did to Boston, with a storm surge previously unseen previously, yet a harbinger of things to come for cities like Boston and New York. Climate is creating the conditions, rising sea levels and warmer oceans that turned storms like Sandy, and the hurricanes that Houston, Puerto Rico and the Florida Keys faced this fall into “super storms.” These climate impacts, will only get worse over time, as will the costs to us all for recovering from them.
Health impacts from climate change are directly hurting my family. My son has developed seasonal asthma. Both my husband and son have severe poison ivy allergies. My daughter has breathing problems, exacerbated by heat extremes. A dear friend on Long Island was stricken with West Nile virus, and her daughter, sickened by Lyme disease The World Health Organization has told us that air pollution is a carcinogen and perhaps the greatest threat to human health. We know that power plants are one of THE major contributors to air pollution today. My husband is an oncologist, he is already much too busy.
How many more scientific studies and major reports do we need to see, which continue to confirm with 95% or greater certainty that we humans are causing our climate to change, before we take action? We know that burning fossil fuels is a key reason our changing climate, and cutting carbon pollution is critical to allow our planet to begin to heal. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has given us a carbon budget, which, if we continue on our current path, we cannot meet. While our government budget “wars” are just “heating up” our carbon budget remains a battle that our government doesn’t seem to want to recognize or confront. Yet, for my children and their future, this is a budget that is infinitely more important, hugely more costly, and intimately tied to our country financial health and to the financial health of the global economy.
We need to recognize and acknowledge the true cost of carbon pollution, which is a huge economic burden on our country. The Clean Power Plan needs to be updated and strengthened, not dismantled. In hindsight, we now know that including gas, a fossil fuel, as an option within the Clean Power Plan was and remains, a serious mistake. Science is clearly showing us that gas is a plank leading to a steep cliff and a bridge to nowhere. Fix the Clean Power Plan, don’t repeal it. Carry out the EPA’s stated mission, to protect human health and the environment. Enact strong carbon pollution standards. Global warming pollution and its impacts are creating social, economic, and moral costs that we are passing on to our children. Their future and ours, depends on what we do now.
Harriet Shugarman, Executive Director, ClimateMama