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Environmentalists urge feds to enforce rules on power plant emissions cuts

| Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015, 11:15 p.m.
Environmental advocates rallied outside the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Downtown, where the Environmental Protection Agency took testimony on a plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants Nov. 11, 2015.
David Conti | Trib Total Media
Environmental advocates rallied outside the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Downtown, where the Environmental Protection Agency took testimony on a plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants Nov. 11, 2015.
Environmental advocates rallied outside the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Downtown, where the Environmental Protection Agency took testimony on a plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants Nov. 11, 2015.
David Conti | Trib Total Media
Environmental advocates rallied outside the William S. Moorhead Federal Building, Downtown, where the Environmental Protection Agency took testimony on a plan to curb carbon emissions from power plants Nov. 11, 2015.

Environmental advocates from as far away as Detroit gathered Thursday in Pittsburgh to urge federal regulators to enforce stringent rules on states that fail to write their own plans to meet requirements for reducing carbon emissions from power plants.

Climate change driven by pollution from fossil fuel-burning plants will harm the planet if the Environmental Protection Agency does not curb emissions soon, dozens of people said during testimony inside the William S. Moorhead Federal Building and at a lunchtime rally outside.

“There is real urgency to take action,” aquatic biologist Edward Perry, Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, told EPA officials during the latest public hearing on the so-called Clean Power Plan.

The controversial centerpiece of the Obama administration's package of climate rules, which two dozen states recently challenged in court, requires that states draw up plans to cut power plant emissions by about a third by encouraging more use of renewable energy sources and less use of coal. Those that don't submit proper plans by deadlines — which start next summer but can be extended for two more years — will be subject to one of four model plans the EPA proposed this summer.

The agency set two-day hearings in Pittsburgh, Denver, Washington and Atlanta to accept comments on the model plans before it chooses one next year. They take different approaches to measuring carbon emissions and allowing pollution credit trading among states or power plants.

Pennsylvania officials said they would write a plan, but some upwind states whose pollution can drift into Pennsylvania are among those suing to stop the EPA's move.

“We need a strong federal plan ready to go if any of these states make good on their promises to do nothing,” said Jamin Bogi, policy and outreach coordinator for the Edgewood-based Group Against Smog and Pollution.

States that have challenged the plan and some industry groups say the rule oversteps the EPA's authority and would raise energy prices.

“Higher costs will hurt poor and middle-class families the most, and will drive away Pennsylvania's thriving manufacturing industry,” American Energy Alliance President Tom Pyle said in response to the hearings, which continue Friday in Pittsburgh.

Those testifying in Pittsburgh included several dozen activists from Philadelphia, Buffalo and Detroit, many wearing T-shirts that read, “Put People & Planet First.” Many advocated for more use of solar and wind power.

“The Clean Power Plan will move us toward the clean, green future Pennsylvanians deserve,” said Elowyn Corby, an advocate for the group PennEnvironment.

David Conti is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5802 or dconti@tribweb.com.

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