Pruitt’s Announcement of a Single Public Hearing on Proposed Repeal of Clean Power Plan Violates Law and Shows a Closed Mind on the Issue

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced only a single public hearing about a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan – in spite of numerous requests from across the country requesting public hearings with EPA officials about this deeply damaging action.

States, cities, public health and environmental organizations, businesses, faith organizations, and other groups representing millions of Americans – including Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) – have asked EPA to hold hearings in their communities. EDF sent a letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday urging him to let Americans weigh in.

“EPA head Scott Pruitt is trying to undo the single biggest step America has ever taken to address climate pollution, and that will affect the health and safety of all Americans,” said EDF Lead Attorney Tomás Carbonell. “Pruitt has a closed mind on this issue, and that means a closed door to millions of Americans – from Florida to Seattle – who are afflicted by the clear and present danger of climate change. The Clean Air Act guarantees people across our country the opportunity to present their concerns about this pollution loophole at a public hearing with EPA officials. Pruitt has rejected out of hand the requests by numerous city and state leaders urging him to hold public hearings in their communities. EPA has a responsibility under the law and under the fundamental tenets of a fair and open government to provide more public hearings so Americans across our nation have an opportunity to be heard.”

Pruitt has proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan – America’s only nationwide limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants, and a plan that the Trump Administration itself determined could prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths each year by 2030.

EDF’s letter points out that EPA held numerous listening sessions prior to proposing the Clean Power Plan, and held four public hearings in cities in all regions of the country after the proposed Clean Power Plan was released – a “stark contrast” with the agency’s lack of engagement with the public under Administrator Pruitt. The letter calls on EPA to hold hearings in the same regionally diverse cities where hearings on the proposed Clean Power Plan took place.

Yesterday, EPA announced only one public hearing, in Charleston, West Virginia on November 28 and 29. EPA noted it “may also hold an additional hearing to be announced at a later date” but made absolutely no commitment to do so and indicated no timetable by which it would inform the public of its decision.

Our nation’s clean air law mandates that the head of EPA give concerned Americans an opportunity to verbally present their views to EPA officials:

“[T]he [EPA] Administrator shall give interested persons an opportunity for the oral presentation of data, views, or arguments, in addition to the opportunity to make written submissions.” (See Clean Air Act Sec. 307(d)(d)(5))

EPA extended the period for submitting written public comment to January 16, 2018.

A group of eight states and five cities have also sent letters demanding hearings in their communities.

Those letters describe the impacts that climate change is already having across America, including:

    • “Ordinary rain events now cause flooding in the streets of Norfolk, including large connector streets going underwater, impacting homeowners’ access on a regular basis… . Naval Station Norfolk, the largest navy base in the world, is currently replacing 14 piers due to sea level rise, at a cost of $35-40 million per pier.” – Mark R. Herring, Attorney General of Virginia
    • “Climate change impacts in Washington include hotter, drier summers; increased respiratory illness; more devastating wildfire seasons; strained water resources and increased flooding; increasingly acidic coastal waters; and much more.” – Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington
    • “Sea level rise from climate change is already exacerbating coastal flooding and erosion from storm events and will eventually inundate low-lying communities, including Boston.” – Maura Healey, Attorney General of Massachusetts (this request was also signed by the entire Massachusetts delegation to the U.S. Congress)
    • “The approximately twelve inches of sea level rise New York City has experienced since 1900 exacerbated the flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy by about twenty-five square miles, damaging the homes of an additional 80,000 people in New York and New Jersey alone.” – Lemuel M. Srolovic, Bureau Chief, New York State Office of the Attorney General
    • “Ongoing threats to the City from the rising water table include slowed drainage during and following rains, increased flood risk, saltwater intrusion into our groundwater and soils, displacement of our drinking water supply, and failure of residential septic systems.” – Philip K. Stoddard, Mayor of South Miami

A diverse array of non-governmental organizations have also asked EPA for hearings that would provide opportunities for those communities most impacted by climate change to speak. Some of the organizations filing requests include Green the Church, the Powershift Network, Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, a coalition of nineteen organizations (including EDF) headed by GreenLatinos, Business Forward, and Hip Hop Caucus.

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