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I am here today in several different roles; I am first of all an eight generation West Virginia resident. I am also an employee of OVEC, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and a member of the steering committee for West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light.
As a faith leader, I am convinced that people of faith have a moral obligation to care for and protect our children and future generations by addressing the effects of climate change and carbon pollution, especially as they wreak havoc on the poorest and most vulnerable among us – yes, US in WV have already suffered the effects of magnified storms which are consistent with Climate Change. I’m talking about the “1000 year floods” which seem to be happening every few years in this state; I’m talking about the many roofs that collapsed during a freak fall snowstorm in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s collision with a cold front, and I’m talking about the Derecho that nearly shut down this state for almost a month several years ago. These weather “events” are not isolated; they are happening more frequently, and we must take them seriously. What saddens me the most is that it is always people who can least afford the damage who are harmed the most in these storms.
As a project coordinator with OVEC, I fully realize the economic challenges facing this state; people who have worked for the coal industry for generations are scared, and there are many sick and depressed people here. I firmly believe that the best future for all West Virginians lies in a more diverse economic climate than we have now. I also believe We can have a healthy economy and a healthy environment.
American innovation can solve the challenge of reducing the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change and threatens our health and economy. We do not have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment; we can have both. In fact, we MUST strive for both a healthy environment and a healthy economy if there is to be a bright future for our children.
I am concerned about the health risks of the potential repeal of this plan. A Trump administration analysis found that the Clean Power Plan could prevent as many as 4,500 premature deaths each year by 2030 – an estimate higher than previous EPA projections.
Original estimates found the Clean Power Plan could:
— Prevent 90,000 asthma attacks and 300,000 missed work and school days by 2030.
–Cut other power plant pollution that triggers asthma attacks and worsens respiratory illnesses, providing total health and climate benefits of up to $54 billion.
–Repealing the Clean Power Plan would mean more sick kids, more expensive hospital visits, and thousands of premature deaths that could have been prevented – and could lead to more intense and destructive severe weather events.
The Clean Power Plan would also accelerate the transition to clean energy that is already underway. Clean energy jobs have seen incredible growth in recent years, with solar and wind jobs growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy and a wind turbine technician is the fastest-growing profession in the country.
Conversely, coal jobs have been on the decline since the Reagan era, not because of regulation, but rather because of increased mechanization replacing jobs and because of cheaper and more available natural gas. We need to find miners living wage jobs in industries where the markets are growing, not declining. I believe this is possible here in WV, and Central Appalachia if we only have the will to take a serious look at the potential for developing other renewable energy sources, rather than putting all our hope in a comeback for coal. This is akin to horse-drawn buggy manufacturers putting all their hopes into the comeback of that industry at the last turn of the century.
States, cities, and businesses across the country are moving forward with clean energy solutions that reduce air and carbon pollution and grow the clean energy economy, creating good-paying American jobs. They understand the economic, environmental and health benefits of clean energy solutions and acutely understand the risks associated with dirty energy sources. Will WV be left behind, and ultimately in the dark? I hope not…
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan is built on a solid legal foundation:
–The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on three separate occasions that the EPA has a responsibility under the Clean Air Act and other laws to protect our families and communities from harmful carbon pollution from power plants and other sources.
–The Clean Power Plan is based on a strong legal foundation. It is consistent with the law, earlier court precedents, and other EPA standards that protect Americans from dangerous pollution.
Americans have sent more than 8 million comments to EPA in support of standards limiting carbon pollution from new and existing power plants – the most ever received by the agency. I have personally submitted two of those comments during earlier hearings – one in DC, and one in Denver, CO.
I rejoiced when this plan was approved; I never thought I would have to come and defend it again, but here I am…
Some here today are fighting to weaken or eliminate the Clean Power Plan. I think we need, instead, to make the right and moral choice to implement sensible climate solutions that speed the transition to a just and equitable clean energy economy.
As stewards of Creation, we must do better if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Our children deserve a stable climate and a sustainable future. We believe that a swift and equitable transition to clean energy is a moral imperative, and cleaning up our nation’s power plants is a critical first step.
Also, I believe Scott Pruitt should schedule more hearings on his plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan is a public health policy that impacts all Americans. Coal miners and citizens in West Virginia should be provided the opportunity to be heard, but it is inadequate to conduct only one public hearing on this important public health policy with a national scope and enormous public impact and interest.
Thank you Robin for your courageous comments and truth telling. Rev. Rick Wilson
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