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Ohio Caravan Travels to Pittsburgh to Speak Out on Clean Air

PHOTO: Dozens of Ohioans are in Pittsburgh this week to testify at EPA public hearings on the agency's plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Photo credit: A. Shazly/Flickr Creative Commons.
PHOTO: Dozens of Ohioans are in Pittsburgh this week to testify at EPA public hearings on the agency's plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Photo credit: A. Shazly/Flickr Creative Commons.
July 31, 2014

CLEVELAND - Buses are leaving from Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland and Akron as dozens of Ohioans travel east to Pittsburgh to speak out on the importance of cleaner air.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding hearings in Pittsburgh Wednesday and Thursday on its proposed rules to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. Director of the Emerald Cities Collaborative, Shanelle Smith of Cleveland grew up near one such coal-fired power plant, and says she is testifying at the hearings because she developed cancer at the age of 26, and believes her condition is linked to prolonged exposure to air pollution.

"There's something extremely unnatural about looking up and seeing pollution and plumes literally going into the air," says Smith. "Communities have been waiting for a long time for some sort of policy that would open the door for emissions reduction."

Power plants are estimated to be responsible for nearly 40 percent of the pollution in the U.S. that results from burning fossil fuels. The EPA's Clean Power Plan is requiring states to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants by more than 30 percent of 2005 levels by the year 2030. Additional EPA hearings have been underway this week in Atlanta, Denver and Washington, D.C. Final Clean Power Plan rules will be finalized next summer.

State Representative Mike Foley of Cleveland is also testifying. He says climate change fueled by carbon pollution needs to be a vital priority for policy makers, and is disappointed Ohio recently froze its clean-energy standards that could have helped to reduce emissions.

"We know it's going to take federal action now for Ohio to be in compliance, and we're going to push the EPA to stand strong on these proposed regulations," says Foley. "Hopefully when the regulations are promulgated and done, Ohio will be forced kicking and screaming to do what's right."

Smith adds that in addition to ensuring all Americans can breathe cleaner air, the standards will be a catalyst to create clean-energy jobs and development.

"The EPA's clean-power rules really get to the triple bottom line of equity, environment and the economy," he says. "This is really the way to move forward for our generation and for generations to come."

The EPA estimates the Clean Power Plan will provide public health and climate benefits over $55 billion per year by 2030, which Smith says far outweighs the costs.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH