It was a cold, rainy day in downtown Denver when an Oil & Gas 360® reporter was greeted in the bathroom at the EPA office building: “Lovely weather out there, huh? Even God’s saying there’s a carbon problem!”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in June that its stated goal is to reduce U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Today’s public hearing on the subject was held at the EPA Region 8 building, 1595 Wynkoop St., Denver. Denver, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Pittsburgh are the four cities hosting public hearings on the proposal this week.

The EPA Hearing in Denver this morning was a colorful affair, with speakers from Colorado and neighboring states on either side of the debate. The EPA’s latest ruling on CO2 is controversial because it pushes many coal power plants out of business, thus making the regulations a burden on the U.S. economy and job market.

From 9:00 a.m. to noon, there were twenty-nine speakers in Room B, all of whom had 5 minutes to state their case to the EPA and the small audience in the room. Some of the speakers would have been more at home with groups discussing the rights of minorities or survivors of Hurricane Katrina, but many had interesting things to say.

Fifteen of the speakers supported the EPA’s regulations and asked for more regulations, especially against methane.

John Atkeison from the Nebraska Wildlife Federation said, “Instead of favoring natural gas, we should support the most affordable power: wind.”

Margaret Rogers, a woman from Boulder who helps people make homes more energy efficient, said, “Maybe you don’t think humans affect the climate, but I think we can all take the environmental leap of faith here – I mean, pumping toxic chemicals into the air can’t be good.”

Steve Stevens, a member of Golden Oldy Cyclery and Sustainability, said “These rules are bold politically but weak environmentally and economically,” especially since “Businesses don’t talk about science, or ethics, or morality.”

Sunny Kelly, a grandmother, compared the coal industry to the ice block sellers who tried to keep refrigerators from being made commercial – with the refrigerators symbolizing renewable energy.

Simon Mostafa from CU Boulder said that “Fossil fuels belong in the ground,” and that the EPA should make stricter regulations: “We shouldn’t export gas either because that makes the same issues we’re trying to stop here happen globally.”

Liz Literal, a DU graduate student, was short and creative with her point, and talked about an old Hopi myth that the white men will die when we abuse Mother Earth.

A soft-spoken member of the “I (Love) Clean Air” group, last name Doleton, reported his horror at the invention of “Freddy the Friendly Frackasaurus,” which someone showed to children at his mom’s school. He told the EPA to “Stop testing it. Do something about it. This isn’t even close to the beginning of what you can and will do.”

Fourteen of the speakers asked for more time, changes, or a rejection of the EPA’s regulations.

Bradly Lewis from Westmoreland Coal Company, the oldest coal company in the U.S, told the audience, “Ask yourself, is my life better now than it was when I entered the world? If yes, thank a coal miner.”

Joshua Zive from the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council told EPA officials that their latest regulations are the wrong way to go about creating change, and that they took this authority over the energy industry from “300 words [and changed it] to over 300 pages of regulations.”

Dusty Rose, a member of the United Mine Workers of America, said, “I’m proud to be a miner, like how I was proud to be a soldier for this country.” He argued that the EPA would crush America’s low cost energy when “energy helped the U.S. become a superpower.” With so many coal mines in danger of shutting down, he said, “The EPA is threatening everything I have worked for.”

Another coal miner, Laurence Oliver, asked, “How can a rule that affects scores of workers not go through Congress?” He also challenged the EPA officials, saying “Conduct more hearings where the impacted live. When you make life or death decisions, you should at least have the courage to look those people in the eye.”

Shawn Gallegos from the Boilermakers Union said, “Losing 130 gigawatts raises serious concerns about the reliability of electricity.” He also argued that the Supreme Court had shown earlier this year that it would not stand for the EPA trying to grab so much power.

Jack Ihie from Excel Energy asked EPA officials to be more flexible since not all companies and states are ready to make such a huge leap away from coal.

Michelle Freair from APCO, a member owned energy station in rural Arizona, said, “It’s not clear that the desired generation is capable of replacing us.” She also pointed out that “Even if we do what they [the EPA] want, we can’t meet their goals… [when] what we’ve [already] done isn’t getting credit.”

Joseph Fross from the Boilermakers Union said, “These issues are for civilians, not bureaucrats.” He argued that his industry is always looking to do things in an environmentally friendly way, but that such projects take years of planning, and should be done on an individual basis instead of a one-regulation-fits-all policy.

George Wilson, a member of the International Electrical Brothers reported the terrible price of switching too quickly from coal to natural gas. He said that in Pueblo, electric prices rose 26% after Black Hills Energy got rid of their coal plant for a natural gas plant. He also argued that CO2 levels are a global affair, and that while CO2 in the U.S. has been the same or lower since 1990, the world’s overall output has increased 44%. He cited a study called “The Value of U.S. Power Supply Diversity” which told EPA officials that they should not put all their energy eggs in one basket by supporting natural gas over coal.

Oil & Gas 360® explored the EPA’s four recommended methods for carrying out the regulations.

To file your comments with the EPA, please click here.

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