EPA brings Clean Power Plan hearings to Pittsburgh

| Thursday, July 24, 2014, 4:06 a.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency said spaces are available for speakers at a “Clean Power Plan” hearing on Aug. 1 at the federal building in Pittsburgh.

That is the proposal an EPA spokeswoman called “a commonsense plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants.”

“The EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan would cut carbon emissions by up to 30 percent by 2030, but the plan is already under attack by industries that won't acknowledge the harms caused by climate change,” wrote Joy Bergey, federal policy director for Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future or PennFuture, in an email to supporters.

But those regulations have raised concern about jobs and energy rates.

“This regulatory attempt to displace coal will have profound and sweeping consequences, not just on the coal industry and its workers, but also on those communities that host coal-fired power plants, those employed at these facilities and every ratepayer who depends upon the reliable provisioning of electricity at competitive rates,” said former state Sen. John Pippy, now CEO of the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, at a June 27 state Senate hearing.

Both sides are preparing their arguments in advance of hearings scheduled next week in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Denver and Washington.

EPA said there no longer were spaces for speakers in the three other cities nor on July 31 in Pittsburgh. Those seeking to speak on Aug. 1 have to apply through EPA's website, or by emailing garrett.pamela@epa.gov; or calling 919-541-7966.

“Join us in Pittsburgh,” Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future or PennFuture federal policy director Bergey said in an email to supporters. “Show your support for these long-overdue protections.”

PennFuture is bringing buses from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh for a midday rally on July 31.

“We're even providing a free lunch,” Bergey promised.

The League of Conservation Voters and the Center for American Progress Action Fund planned a Thursday conference call “promoting the plan and rebutting attacks from industry and their allies.” The league said it would release a new TV ad campaign “highlighting the attempts by polluter allies to kill the proposal with false attacks.”

“As an energy-intensive, trade-exposed industry, steel will bear the weight of this onerous regulatory burden as electricity costs are passed on to the users,” U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi told a West Virginia manufacturers' seminar last month. “Regulations such as these put the steel industry, and domestic manufacturing, at a competitive disadvantage against other steel-producing nations such as China, India and Russia where such environmental rules do not exist or are ignored.”

The hearings come a year after FirstEnergy announced it would deactivate two Mon Valley power plants, one at Courtney, not far south of Jefferson Hills.

State Rep. Rick Saccone, R-Elizabeth Township, said EPA policies were to blame for the loss of “70 good-paying union jobs” there and others at a plant near Masontown.

The EPA plan being aired next week was announced earlier this year. EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones wrote that states will have “significant flexibility” toward meeting goals that keep energy “affordable and reliable.”

She predicted energy bills will shrink by 8 percent when the plan is fully implemented in 2030.

On its website EPA said nearly 300,000 written comments have been submitted regarding the proposal that could impact coal usage.

Comments will be accepted by email, fax or letter after next week's hearings. The comment period on the proposal is open until Oct. 16.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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