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EPA to Get an Earful on Clean Air

PHOTO: The EPA holds hearings across the country beginning Tuesday on its proposed Clean Air Plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants. While Maine is not a hearing site, one member of Congress is making sure her voice is heard. Photo credit: Dori / Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: The EPA holds hearings across the country beginning Tuesday on its proposed Clean Air Plan aimed at reducing carbon emissions from power plants. While Maine is not a hearing site, one member of Congress is making sure her voice is heard. Photo credit: Dori / Wikimedia Commons.
July 29, 2014

PORTLAND, Maine - The Environmental Protection agency (EPA) will begin holding a series of public hearings across the U.S. on Tuesday on the newly-announced Clean Air Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels.

The hearings are being held this week in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Interested parties, organizations and citizens can comment on the new regulations before they take effect, but Representative Chellie Pingree of Maine's 1st congressional district says beyond health threats from air pollution, the Clean Power Plan will at last begin to address climate change.

"Climate change has already started to have an impact on Maine, whether it's rising sea levels or ocean acidification," says Pingree. "There's a lot of potential impact here in Maine, and we have to do something about it."

The EPA says it has already received nearly 300,000 written comments on the proposal.

While critics say the carbon pollution limits will have a devastating economic impact, Representative Pingree says she'd like to see proof of a negative economic impact from cleaning the air. She also notes climate change comes with its own price tag.

"There's rising sea levels in a coastal state like ours, the issues fishermen are starting to face, forest fires and the huge weather problems we're having in parts of the country," says Pingree. "We're racking up enormous costs right now, and businesses and the rest of us are already paying those costs."

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than half of Maine's net electricity generation came from renewable energy resources in 2013, but New England is often called the "tailpipe" of America because prevailing winds carry air pollution in from the Midwest. Pingree says that air pollution, much of it from coal-fired power plants, leaves its mark.

"People say, 'Wait, I'm in Maine? This is a pristine state. How could you have issues with air quality? How could you be affected, have greater problems with asthma and all the other complications that come along with it?'" says Pingree. "We stand to benefit a great deal from this proposal, and I don't see anything but a net job gain for us."

Carol Browner, former EPA administrator, disagrees with the viewpoint clean air regulations hurt business.

"We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. The two go together," Browner says. "The EPA proposal is a clear example of how you can find common sense, cost-effective ways to clean our air and protect the health of our communities."

While the closest hearings to Maine are being held in Pittsburgh this Thursday and Friday, citizens can comment on the proposal via the EPA website by October 16th, or submit comments by email, fax or letter.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - ME