A packed room for the EPA listening session on carbon pollution regulations in Lenexa, KS

EDITORIAL NOTE: This guest blog was written by Ellen Miller and Elaine Giessel, members of the Natural Resource Committee of the League of Women Voters of Johnson County, Kansas.

In our bright red League of Women Voters shirts and front-row seats, we came out in force!

The over 400 attendees of the Environmental Protection Agency’s listening session on carbon pollution from existing power plants saw how much the League of Women Voters of Johnson County, Kansas (LWVJC) cares about clean air. The meeting, held at EPA Region 7 Headquarters in Lenexa, KS, was one of 11 sessions across the country. Karl Brooks, our region’s administrator, presided over the well-organized session. There was a slight 20-minute delay getting started due to the large crowd, with overflow rooms quickly filling up, which only added to the room’s buzz and decibel level.

The Johsnon County League was happy to be one of the many Leagues to comment on this important regulation. LWVUS has a long record of supporting the life saving measures that this regulation will address for future generations as well as for the environment. On behalf of the Johnson County League, Ellen Miller started her testimony by referring to LWVUS national president Elisabeth MacNamara’s statement that, “Reducing the amount of carbon pollution from power plants is a life-saving measure that will protect our children, our nation and the world from the devastating effects of climate change.”

The Johnson County League  was able to provide a unique, local voice to this listening session, by focusing on the public health risks in our own county. Using the American Lung Association’s State of the Air website, we outlined some of the statistics that affect the “Groups at Risk:” of the nearly 553,000 residents of Johnson County. The health risks facing these groups include:

  • Pediatric asthma – over 11,000
  • Adult asthma – just shy of 36,000
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease – over 26,000

Additionally, a child’s lungs are not fully developed until adulthood and infants have only 20 percent of their tiny air sacs developed. Noting that both water quality and agricultural chemicals have been highly regulated by the federal government for decades, she urged immediate installation of the first-ever carbon emissions standard that would protect public health and address the cause of climate change.

A rally of more than 50 supporters of carbon standards was held in advance of the listening session. Many other groups testified in favor of carbon emission standards on existing facilities, including numerous Sierra Club representatives, as well as Audubon Society members, Iowa’s green efficiency program, the Missouri Power Plant Alliance, a state legislator, the Sustainability Sanctuary Group and the Kansas Municipal League. A small number of construction union members and local industry representatives testified against additional regulations. A few individuals also expressed concern about rising energy costs.

Citizens in support of carbon pollution standards far outnumbered those who opposed regulation of emissions. It is clear that the informed public is worried about the public health and global climate change issues associated with rising carbon levels.

If the same level of concern was expressed at listening sessions around the country, then the EPA should have little reason to delay developing and implementing carbon emission standards on both new and existing facilities.

The listening session we attended was just a preliminary session for public input into the process of creating appropriate regulations. Based on these sessions, there will be additional opportunities in the next year to provide comments on proposed rules. To have your voice heard now, contact the EPA in support of the proposed carbon standards.

The League of Women Voters of Johnson County, Kansas was one of many Leagues that testified at the EPA listening sessions on carbon regulations. League members attended each of the 11 sessions. The League of Women Voters of the United States testified at the Washington, DC session.

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