Friday July 6th 2012

EPA’s Carbon Pollution Rule Gets Largest Number Of Public Comments For Any Federal Rule

2.1 Million comments are delivered to EPA Assistant Administrator for Air Gina McCarthy. Photo: Josh Lopez

by Susannah Marshall

It turns out a lot of people support the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of carbon dioxide from power plants.

Recently, 2.1 million comments were submitted to the EPA in support of its proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for new power plants. The 2.1 million comments collected over the past ten weeks have more than doubled the previous record for comments to EPA. The groups collecting the comments say it’s the largest number submitted for any federal regulation in U.S. history.

This proposed regulation would reduce carbon pollution from new power plants by 123 billion pounds annually – roughly equal to the amount of pollution from 11 million cars.

Coal-fired power plants are the single largest emitters of carbon dioxide, spewing 2 billion tons of global warming pollution into our air each year — helping to accelerate heat waves, droughts, floods, and leading to more asthma attacks, heat induced mortality, and other serious ailments.

Throughout June, wildfires, floods, record-setting high temperatures and other extreme weather events were in full force, acting as a painful reminder that it’s time to seriously address carbon pollution.

A broad coalition of clean air organizations including the Center for American Progress Action Fund issued this statement last week, commending the incredible response to the new standards:

“[O]ur expectations have been exceeded by the unprecedented support demonstrated by the more than 2 million comments from Americans who support EPA’s historic standard to curb dangerous industrial carbon pollution from new power plants while urging EPA to move forward with a strong standard for existing power plants. The message is clear: Americans want cleaner air and less industrial carbon pollution and they want EPA to protect their kids, their families and their communities from the dangerous effects of climate change.”

EPA stated that the proposed carbon pollution standard is “in line with current industry investment patterns,” and therefore “is not expected to have notable costs and is not projected to impact electricity prices or reliability.”

Nonetheless, big coal and utility companies have spent millions of dollars to block reductions of smog, acid rain, mercury, toxic, and carbon pollution from power plants.

On Tuesday June 26th, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld EPA’s “endangerment finding” and carbon pollution limits for passenger vehicles.  It also rejected suits by the American Petroleum Institute and other major polluters that challenged EPA’s ability to first limit carbon pollution from the very largest polluters.

In response to this legal victory, congressional allies of big coal and utility companies will attempt to pass legislation to block the proposed carbon pollution standard for new power plants.  There is such an amendment in the FY 2013 Interior and Environment spending bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee on June 28thThe Hill reports:

“The agency’s big court victory Tuesday against industry challenges to its climate rules will likely intensify ongoing Capitol Hill attacks against greenhouse gas regulations and other EPA policies.

[The House spending bill] also targets specific EPA policies with provisions — draft report language would prevent use of funds for greenhouse gas permitting.

But that’s just one venue Republicans will use to attack the agency over various policies.”

While big coal and its political allies fight climate protection efforts, Americans can continue to express their support to EPA via comments in favor of the carbon pollution standard. Public comments on proposed rules are an essential part of the regulatory process. It provides a forum for the public to demonstrate its support for clean air.  It can also overwhelm or offset comments from big coal and utility companies who want to eliminate or eviscerate the proposed safeguards.

The official comment period ended on Monday June 25th, but you can still show your support by sending in comments today. Do it here!

Susannah Marshall is an intern with the Energy Opportunity team at the Center for American Progress.

This article was originally posted on Climate Progress