Crowds Turn Out For EPA Global Warming Hearings


Rally at EPA climate hearing in Seattle, WA. Image credit:Dan Ritzman.

This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held two hearings to take public comment on its finding that global-warming pollutants endanger public health and can be regulated by the Clean Air Act. We had plenty of people at both hearings - Monday's was in Arlington, VA, and Thursday's was in Seattle, WA.

When the EPA announced that it would hold these o hearings on its endangerment finding, the Sierra Club decided to use this opportunity to demonstrate strong public support for fast, scientifically-based, and substantial actions on climate change. We turned to our volunteers, coalition partners and staff throughout the country to lead that effort.The EPA is on the verge of finalizing its endangerment finding – a solidly-constructed determination to regulate global warming pollution, based upon decades of work by scientists all over the world.

I've heard very encouraging words about this week's hearings and the hundreds that came to testify to EPA to say that the agency should act and regulate global warming pollution. At the Arlington hearing, more than 100 people came to our mid-day press conference, which featured some great speakers from all background.

For the Seattle hearing, lunch time featured a huge rally - and our organizers even got a busload of 120 people to head up to the Seattle hearing from Oregon - taking the entire day (a 6-hour round trip) to testify and be part of the hearing.

With all that great news, I thought I'd take this week's column to let some of the attendees speak for themselves.

From the EPA hearing in Arlington, VA:
Mary Anne Hitt - Deputy Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign
On Monday, close to 300 Sierra Club members and activists, clergy and people of faith, scientists, health professionals, and even a former 007 turned out for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) global warming endangerment hearing in Arlington, VA .

We heard doctors talk about the health impacts, scientists discuss the climate models, regular citizens tell personal stories, and many clergy people talk about why we should take action and why their faith communities are involved.

Keely and Pierce Brosnan (007!) also showed up to testify. We were all appreciative of the willingness of the Brosnans to stay through additional testimony after they spoke, spend some time afterward talking to hearing attendees, and take a few pictures.


The Brosnans in Arlington VA, left to right - Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Campaign Deputy Director), Keely Brosnan, Pierce Brosnan, and Glen Besa, VA Sierra Club Chapter. Image credit:Allison Fisher.

(Then the paparazzi chased the Brosnans' car - which I was riding in - from the hearing all the way back to DC, and then the cameras followed us into a Barnes and Noble, where security finally chased them away. The good news is that I loaded the Brosnans up with good books on coal and global warming.)

Virginia Cramer - Sierra Club Press Secretary
The speakers from the faith community were really amazing. To hear perspectives from almost every major religious tradition on the importance of acting on global warming was a powerful experience-- one that the EPA panel was still talking about during one of the breaks.

Mark Kresowik - Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign
The four or five climate change deniers and industry lobbyists present looked discouraged as speaker after speaker urged the EPA to move away from the dirty coal and oil interests of the past. It was an inspirational day, and reminded all of us who were lucky enough to be there how important this issue is and that we cannot wait to embrace the jobs and opportunities a clean energy future will bring.

From the EPA hearing in Seattle, WA:
Craig Segall - Environmental Law Fellow with the Sierra Club
In Seattle, banners hung from the roof of the convention center, hundreds of people rallied outside, and citizens sang EPA songs about penguins from the speaker's table. This hearing wasn’t a dry bureaucratic function: It was something closer to a party.

The crowd was big and boisterous. Applause followed most comments, and I saw at least a few hugs. Comments themselves ran the gamut from the intensely personal to the highly technical. Moms brought their kids up to the podium (as 'visual aids,' as one put it) and commenters told stories about hiking in the mountains, watching glaciers melt, and growing up in the coalfields. A crowd of scientists, academics, and activists kept EPA up to date on the latest evidence of mounting global danger. And pretty much everyone urged EPA to act now.

Two memories last for me. The first memory is of all the youth activists – some in t-shirts, some in suits, and one guy, memorably, in a garbage bag. They know that this is the defining effort of their generation – which is my generation, too – and are ready to fight for change with humor and with an earnestness that is wholly unmarred by self-importance.

The second is of Sierra Club volunteer Nell Johnson, who testified after I gave a pretty dry legal talk on the Clean Air Act. Nell grew up in the coalfields of West Virginia and spoke vividly of creeks running black with coal dust, of friends dying young, of a father who had lost his toes in the mines. She spoke fervently and beautifully about our chance to finally break free of coal. And now, finally, we may. It’s a sunny day in Seattle. The world is changing – and maybe for the better.

Kathleen Ridihalgh - Senior Regional Representative for the Sierra Club NW/Alaska Region
For our mid-day rally, a spirited crowd estimated at 2,000 people gathered outside an EPA hearing in Seattle, urging the Obama Administration to take action on reducing global warming pollution. Hundreds of children and students joined members of the faith community, health officials, business leaders, environmental leaders, and elected officials - including Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels - to call for action on the threat to public health posed by global warming pollution, support real solutions to global warming, create more clean energy jobs and opportunity in the growing clean energy economy and end America’s dependence on dirty energy sources like coal.

In the morning, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire also made a significant announcement to further move our state in her commitment to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. She signed an executive order that sets a low-carbon fuel standard, reduces traffic and emissions in urban areas, and requires Washington’s only coal-fired electricity generating plant -- the TransAlta facility in Centralia -- to comply with the state emissions performance standard usually reserved for new power plants no later than 2025, resulting in at least 50% emissions reductions from the plant.

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There's still time to submit your comments to EPA - just use our Big Picture Campaign page.

Overall, I'm truly inspired by these reports that so many people showed up wanting the EPA to act on global warming pollution. David Bookbinder, Sierra Club's Chief Climate Counsel, summed it up well when he spoke on Monday: "It's clear, from the crowd of people who turned out today, and the thousands of people who have already submitted comments, that there is broad public support for strong action on global warming."

More posts on the hearings.
Pierce Brosnan at EPA: "Markey. Waxman-Markey"
We've Got Obama's Back on Climate Change

Tags: Seattle

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