Overwhelming Number Turn Out to Support Clean Power Plan at Coal Country Hearing
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) only public hearing on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan (CPP) featured many more people speaking in favor of the Obama-era effort to slash emissions from power plants.
Even though EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt purposely held the meeting in Charleston "in the heart of coal country," West Virginia to allow more coal stakeholders to testify in person, the vast majority of the 250 speakers at the two-day meeting at the West Virginia Capitol Complex actually approve of the CPP, VICE News reported. Only 30 or so speakers voiced their support for the repeal.
Representatives from environmental and social justice groups such as the NAACP naturally spoke in favor of the plan, which would avert dangerous climate change and save billions of dollars due to the public health benefits of cutting polluting emissions.
But perhaps to the surprise of CPP opponents, many residents of West Virginia and even a former coal miner also spoke of how they wanted to save the Obama initiative.
Cynthia Ellis of Putnam County, West Virginia—who said she contracted asthma due to exposure from coal plant emissions—testified about how her 10-year-old extended family member, Emma, "coached me on how to use my inhaler," VICE reported.
Stanley Sturgill, 72, a retired coal miner diagnosed with black lung and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease due to years of working in the field, pleaded to the EPA panel: “We're still dying—we're still literally dying—for you to help us."
"Just how many people must pay the supreme price of death for a few rich, greedy people to bank a few dollars?" Sturgill continued, as quoted by Huffington Post.
The Clean Power Plan, Obama's signature climate strategy, limits carbon emissions from coal-fired plants. But the CPP never took effect due to extensive legislation from states opposed to it. In October, the EPA proposed to repeal the CPP in accord with President Donald Trump's Energy Independence Executive Order.
Sturgill, who lives in Harlan County, Kentucky, drove for three hours to get to the meeting. "Do I really think that this administration cares what this old, worn-out coal miner has to say? Well, I don't know. I really doubt it. But I had to be here," he later told HuffPo, "as long as I can draw breath."
Trump and Administrator Pruitt have called the CPP a "war on coal" and vow to bring back coal jobs. But experts say that coal's return is unlikely as demand has dropped steadily due to cheap natural gas, new wind and solar projects, energy efficiency initiatives and other market forces.
"The majority of the profits go to executives and shareholders out of state" Jim Waggy of Charleston, West Virginia, also said at the hearing. "These are primary reasons why West Virginia remains one of the poorest states in the nation despite the presence of coal."
But will the EPA listen to what these voices have to say? As VICE pointed out, even though they were clearly outnumbered by CPP supporters, coal barons such as Robert Murray and other industry voices were given top billing at the hearing. Their testimonies were heard first and presented at the only room of three at the hearing that was consistently aired online.
Day 1 of the @EPA Clean Power Plan hearing in Charleston, West Virginia about to get going. Robert Murray, coal min… https://t.co/F09GChcRnx— Natasha Geiling (@Natasha Geiling)1511877574.0
Murray, the founder and CEO of Murray Energy, called for a repeal of the "so-called and illegal Clean Power Plan, also called the 'No Power Plan.'" He showed up to the meeting flanked by more than 20 miners dressed in full work gear, New Republic reported.
Former President Obama's EPA held 11 public listening sessions before it proposed the CPP in addition to four hearings during the public comment period.
Obama EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia Gannon told Reuters that Pruitt is "just checking a box ... and making it more difficult for Americans across the country to weigh in."
The EPA will receive online comments about its proposal and any requests for additional public meetings until Jan. 16.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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