McConnell and Caucus Turn Deaf Ear to Unprecedented Public Clamor for Carbon Pollution Curbs

Today's announcement by the US Environmental Protection Agency that it is sticking to its schedule for finalizing carbon pollution limits for power plants is an encouraging show of determination by an agency charged with protecting Americans' health to do its job, despite Congressional threats to block, undermine and defund the EPA.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his polluter cronies—who rode a wave of $721 million in polluter campaign contributions back to DC—have made clear that stopping the agency from putting the first-ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution is at the top of their agenda.

Instead of following the big polluter's agenda, McConnell and others need to listen to the health professionals. They need to listen to the faith groups and the Fortune 500 companies. They need to listen to the labor organizations and the millions of others who have come out in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's historic effort to reduce industrial carbon pollution, which fuel climate change.

In all, more than 8 million comments were collected and submitted to the EPA—far more than the agency has received on any other issue.

The astounding number underscores the broad support for EPA's plan to limit, for the first time, the more than 2 billion tons of carbon pollution spewed into the atmosphere by power plants. It confirms polls showing public support for carbon limits, such as a June 2014 Washington Post/ABC Poll which found a “huge majority of Americans support” curbing carbon pollution from power plants.

And it demonstrates how strongly the public feels about climate change, a threat to our health, our environment and our economy.

While we have long limited how much arsenic, mercury, smog and soot pollution power plants can dump into our air, there have been no such limits on carbon pollution—until now.

Support for closing this polluter loophole doesn't come just from environmental groups.

The American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in. “As the effects of climate change result in increased negative health and environmental outcomes, children will disproportionately bear the burden of these outcomes,” it warned.

The American Lung Association noted the proposed carbon limits will prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks and up to 6,600 premature deaths annually when fully implemented.

Religious groups expressed their support. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the carbon limits would “demonstrate the commitment of the United States to address climate change and create an opportunity for the United States to exercise the critical leadership necessary for achieving a globally negotiated climate change agreement.”

The Rev. Jim Ball, executive vice president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, called it “well past time for our country to make the investments necessary, not only to protect us from climate impacts, but to position our country to be the leader of the clean energy revolution that is coming.”

A group of state environmental leaders, energy agency leaders and public utility commissioners from 14 states were among the local and state elected leaders who expressed their support for carbon limits.

“Our states are already experiencing the harms of climate change, including increased wildfires, more severe droughts and heatwaves, rising seas, and increased frequency and intensity of severe weather events such as hurricanes,” they said.

“The costs of inaction are high,” they added. “The harms from climate change will only continue to grow in the future, and the most vulnerable in our society are at greatest risk.”

The plan also has drawn support from business groups.

More than 200 businesses, including Nike, Starbucks, Levi Strauss, and Nestlé, called the carbon limits “grounded in economic reality.

“We know that tackling climate change is one of America's greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century and we applaud the EPA for taking steps to help the country seize that opportunity,” the groups wrote under the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy.

Even industry groups have expressed support for the EPA plan.

National Grid, an electric and natural gas company that serves the Northeast, said it supports EPA action “in light of the congressional standstill to move forward with comprehensive climate legislation.”

There also is support from labor. EPA's plan permits each state to tailor a carbon reduction plan “ to the specifics of its local and regional economy; which in turn can create opportunities to sustain and grow jobs, encourage investment, and jumpstart new technologies,” BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of environmental and labor groups, said.

Even if the high volume and diversity of the comments in support of carbon limits aren't convincing enough, perhaps our officials—you too, Sen. McConnell—should listen to the many comments from ordinary people, including a Pennsylvania woman.

Her message to EPA: “For the sake of my grandchildren, please do this.”