Atlanta, GA -- Atlanta was one of only four locations across the U.S. for a press conference to support the United States Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) hearings on the proposed cutting carbon pollution regulations within the Clean Power Plan. “The hearings will be held over the next few days. Not only will the EPA hear from Georgia, but Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina,” according to Elizabeth MacNamara, national president, League of Women Voters. She furthers states, “It is essential that we take steps to reduce carbon pollution for the sake of our children and our grandchildren.”
Supporting advocates showed up at the amphitheatre in Centennial Park to show their support in favor of these new standards. A few focus points to gain support for the Clean Power Plan, are to spur innovation and accelerate the economy through the creation of more jobs and a primary opportunity for modernization of power facilities to provide cleaner air in the hope of reducing health issues from carbon pollution. Since power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, it just made sense to start with the “big guys.” The goal is to eventually eliminate facilities using coal (http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards).
The list of Georgia leaders voicing their support at the Clean Air for America press conference was: Mary Ann Hitt, director, Sierra Club’s coal campaign; Dr. Rev. Gerald Durley, retired senior pastor, Providence Mission Baptist Church; Laura Turner Seydel, board chair, Mothers and Others for Clean Air; Dr. Francys Johnson, president, Georgia NAACP; Dr. Marilyn Brown, Georgia Tech (Nobel Peace Prize winner); John Noel, Energy & Environment, LLC; Kelvin Cochran, Atlanta Fire Chief; Dr. Ayanna Buckner, physician and public health expert; Lisa Rayner, volunteer, Mothers and Others for Clean Air; Representative Mary Margaret Oliver, (D-Decatur), attorney; and Elisabeth MacNamara, national president, League of Women Voters.
Ms. Hitt attended the hearings in Atlanta to testify in support of curbing carbon pollution. In support of her findings, according to Laura Turner Seydel, “Asthma is the leading cause of emergency room visits to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.” She also stated that in studies for the State of Georgia children located in South Atlanta had a 50% higher asthma rate than other children in the State. A volunteer for Mothers and Others for Clean Air, Lisa Rayner, moved the audience by sharing a devastating experience mothers have to go through with an asthmatic child experiencing life-threatening breathing difficulties.
Georgia has definitely suffered from a destabilized climate, but is on its way to cleaner air slowly. One example: Georgia Power, in trying to comply with EPA’s new standards, has announced that by April 2015 the Mitchell Plant which generates 155 megawatts will be retired--a coal-fired unit. In 2011, Georgia Power showed to be producing 62% of the carbon pollution for the State of Georgia. The EPA has outlined in the Clean Power Plan goals customized to each state for pollution-reduction for their coal plants. There are 600 coal plants in the United States according to www.sourcewatch.org producing 1.8M tons of CO2 equivalents.
As Dr. Rev. Durley educated all attendees with enthusiasm that the first commandment was found in the book of Genesis where it states to take care of earth, off to the side a supporter holds a sign stating, “People of Faith for Just Energy.” John Noel, owner of Energy & Environment, LLC, and former state representative was asking why the lights were continuing to burn over Centennial Park in at 10:18am on a beautiful sunny day. He goes on to state, “That’s what my company does. We find dumb stuff.” As the attending advocates followed his gaze up towards the towering light fixture, one could almost hear what everyone was thinking to themselves, “That is really a waste.”
This morning’s press conference was well attended from support advocates not only from Georgia, but Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina. One support advocate interning for Environment Georgia is a student for the University of Virginia. When asked as to how she came to intern in Georgia, she mentioned, “I have family here." Supporting our earth for future generations was Dr. Ayanna Buckner as she introduced a nine-year old girl that is working hard to take care of our environment. “Health is something that people don’t usually think about with climate change or when they think about air pollution,” says Dr. Buckner. “Health is important and we need to think about these things,” she further emphasizes.
As a native Georgian, Representative Mary Oliver, remarked on how beautiful Georgia is and keeping it that way is important. She also went on to mention that Atlanta is the fastest growing area east of the Mississippi River. With that comes increase in poverty and the jobs that would come from alternative sources of energy would be beneficial to Georgia. Georgia is close to powering 200,000 homes and businesses with reliable clean energy while keeping rates low for customers reports Jenna Garland, Sierra Club.
Nobel Prize Winner, Dr. Marilyn Brown of Georgia Tech, states, “That while we have enjoyed low energy rates and it has given us the benefit of spurring economic development, it has, at the same time has also spurred consumption.” Further stating that the new regulations would help households reduce usage and put a premium on energy efficiency. She expounds, “The US has 35% of the world’s population and uses 45% of energy. We’ve not been motivated to use energy wisely.”