Sierra Club calls for pollution rally, UMKC support

Jessica Turner

The Environmental Protection Agency is holding a series of nationwide public hearings as a result of its proposal in September to enforce a fresh set of carbon pollution standards for new power plants.

For the Midwest, the agency will assemble its carbon pollution rally followed by a listening session on Monday, Nov. 4, at 3 p.m. at the EPA Region 7 Offices in Lenexa, Kan.

“[This session] would benefit enormously from UMKC student attendance and awareness,” said Maddy Salzman, an apprentice for the Beyond Coal Campaign with the Sierra Club.

She added that students who attend the gathering can expect significant exposure to press events and learn about how community organizing works.

“This is a rare opportunity for students who want to take a stand on climate justice issues to have a voice,” Salzman said. “Rather than needing to go to D.C. to make a difference in federal legislation, decision-makers are coming to us. Supporters will be traveling from throughout Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska because an event like this has never been held by the EPA before.”

“[The EPA has] a long history of taking comments from public listening sessions to heart when writing new legislation pieces,” Salzman said.

She suggested that students who are skeptical about their ability to have a genuine influence should think again.

“The EPA cares to hear what we have to say,” Salzman said. “Students who choose to speak would be able to participate in that process.”

According to its website, the EPA considered “more than 2.5 million comments from the public,” and as a direct result of those remarks, the organization is inclined to implement “a new source performance standard for emissions of carbon dioxide for new affected fossil fuel-fired electric generating units.”

This could mean changes close to home for companies like Kansas City Power and Light and Great Plains Energy.

According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, “new laws or regulations could mandate new or increased requirements to control or reduce the emission of greenhouse gases … which are created in the combustion of fossil fuels. The Companies’[RC(1]  current generation capacity is primarily coal-fired and is estimated to produce about one ton of CO2 per MWh [kilowatt hour], or approximately 25 million tons, and 19 million tons per year for Great Plains Energy and KCP&L, respectively. Legislation concerning the reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases, including CO2, is being considered at the federal and state levels.”

“Sources of electricity like energy efficiency, wind and use of techniques of carbon capture and sequestration make it possible to provide electricity services to our customers with no carbon dioxide emissions and therefore, no added cost attributable to CO2 prices,” stated an environmental report from KCP&L.

Although the Missouri Department of Resources monitors air quality, the public has a right to voice its opinion to make the necessary improvements by passing the legislation required to reduce the emissions.

Salzman said that, if enacted, the new standards would reduce the negative effects coal plant pollution is proven to have on human and environmental health. The EPA describes it as an “important step to reduce carbon pollution from power plants as a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.”

“Such standards would have huge, lasting impacts on issues of climate change and environmental and social justice,” Salzman said.

Although the Clean Air Act has, according to the EPA, “achieved dramatic reductions in air pollution,” it has also been determined that “power plants are the largest concentrated source of emissions in the United States, together accounting for roughly one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.”

The approval of the new proposal would carry out the first measure of a plan Obama outlined in a memo to the EPA in June.

“Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “By taking commonsense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children. These standards will also spark the innovation we need to build the next generation of power plants, helping grow a more sustainable clean energy economy.”

During the rally, participants will have the chance to meet and show support for the proposed action on environmental pollution. There are already more than 200 pre-registered attendees for the hearing, which doesn’t include those who just plan to attend the rally.

“There will be press at the event, as well as speakers, T-shirts and buttons, signs and even blow-up props,” Salzman said. “It should be a fun way for anyone to come and show support.”

Salzman is impressed with the UMKC Sustainability Team’s projects, including the LEED-Certified buildings on campus, efforts by Dining Services, transportation systems and levels of recycling and waste reduction.

“UMKC was listed as a Sierra Club Top 100 Cool School, which is just one of the many awards the school has been offered to celebrate the initiatives that have already been taking place,” Salzman said. “It’s great to see everything students are already accomplishing on campus and taking action to support sustainability. UMKC students seem passionate and active on environmental issues, so I hope they can direct that energy toward off-campus events — like this one — as well.”

Salzman emphasized that the hearing will be the only event of its kind occurring in EPA Region 7.

“Students interested in action on climate disruption and environmental degradation, participating in political processes and making a difference in federal government issues will find this event rewarding,” Salzman said.

The rally and listening session portions are both open to the public. If concerned individuals are unable to attend, they are still encouraged to reach out to the EPA to show their support for the new proposed standards.

“There is an EPA email account  where anyone can send stories, advice or general thoughts about carbon pollution standards,” Salzman said. “We encourage anyone interested in this issue to do this.”