Speaking Out for a Cleaner America at EPA's Hearing in Pittsburgh


Introducing Guest Blogger, Christina Zhou (MAP Fellow, Summer 2014)

Christina graduated from Stanford University in May 2014 with a degree in Environmental Engineering.  She has joined NRDC's Climate and Clean Air Program as a MAP Fellow for the summer in New York City, and will be returning to Stanford in the Fall to complete her Masters in Environmental Engineering.


I attended the EPA hearing in Pittsburgh last week as a part of the team from NRDC analyzing and testifying for the Clean Power Plan (my remarks below). The testimonies themselves were dominated by supporters of setting standards for carbon pollution, and many of them called for more aggressive targets than those proposed in the Clean Power Plan. Many speakers focused on personal experiences and health / economic impacts of unbridled power plant emissions, while others used research and expertise to demonstrate benefits of the rule. Hearing these voices from all different walks of life, from all around the region, makes me all the more grateful to be contributing to analysis of the Clean Power Plan to improve it further.

Outside the building where the hearings took place, coal miners from the UMWA rallied against the proposed standards over concerns about job losses. Even while industry voices continue to mobilize workers on this issue, several studies have demonstrated the job creation opportunities in moving towards a clean energy future.  Many other factors such as natural gas price competitiveness and declining coal reserves are also driving industry decline, and will continue to do so independent of the standards. The Clean Power Plan can help spur investment and create hundreds of thousands of exciting new jobs with careful and strategic planning in states to meet their Clean Power Plan goals. We all want to see a cleaner environment and a fair, thriving economy, and these proposed emissions standards are one step towards that brighter future.

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Good afternoon, I’m Christina and I’m another voice speaking out for climate solutions. I just graduated from Stanford University in Environmental Engineering and am working as a summer fellow with the NRDC back home in New York before going back to school for a master’s degree. As a student, I learned about the processes by which pollutants change our atmosphere and affect our health, implications of climate related events like the California drought, and realistic ways to foster sustainability. And as a recent grad, I often think about how I can support myself and eventually my family when they can no longer work, while contributing to the public good. My parents came to this country as immigrants with almost nothing, and to provide me with a better future, they worked their way up from odd jobs to running their own small business. From their struggle, I’ve gained an appreciation for the importance of creating opportunities for future generations, and I’m thrilled to have this chance to push for a cleaner and more resilient America. We shouldn’t have to choose between the economy and a clean energy future. Workers shouldn’t have to choose between lifelong health impacts of jobs in dirty industries and putting food on the table. For this reason and many others, I support the Clean Power Plan, which will move our nation forward and foster our technological leadership in the energy field. This groundbreaking regulation will provide opportunities for people to keep America strong and at the forefront of innovation, while cutting harmful pollution and creating jobs.

Studies have found that flexible standards like the Clean Power Plan will drive businesses to be more competitive globally and at home. The Industry Studies Association based here in Pittsburgh found that strict car pollution standards for carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons in the 70’s incentivized US automakers to innovate, making them more competitive than overseas manufacturers. Additionally, recent fuel economy rules are estimated to provide around half a million jobs by 2030. We’ve seen in this example, and many others, that moving actively on new standards will benefit both companies and workers. The Clean Power Plan is flexible, giving states many possibilities to meet their goals. Each state gets a target based on its existing resources and progress to-date, but can comply by selecting from a menu of options. This flexibility lets each state choose the most economical approach for its electricity customers, considering available resources, economic potential, and more human impacts such as jobs, environmental justice, and the enormous public health benefits of reducing carbon and other air pollutants.

As it turns out, the opportunities offered in the Clean Power Plan benefit the economy and people. Here in Pennsylvania, there exists incredible potential for creating well-paying jobs in fields such as energy efficiency and renewable energy. According to an NRDC analysis, the proposed standards could create over 5000 new efficiency jobs in Pennsylvania, though even more are possible depending on how the state meets the goal. Penn, especially Pittsburgh, already leads in clean energy and new technologies. A 2010 study by the Brookings Institute ranked Pennsylvania as the state with the 4th largest green economy, based on over 100,000 jobs in fast growing segments such as energy efficient lighting, solar, and wind. Jobs in this clean economy pay well –$2300 more than the state average. The Clean Power Plan gives states the opportunity to choose policies that increase and improve American jobs while cutting hidden costs to our children and communities, like hospital visits for respiratory illnesses and other pollution related health effects. The EPA’s analysis of reduced greenhouse gas and other toxic pollutant levels shows that the benefits massively outweigh the costs of the program. Based on our research, we find this estimate conservative, and that real benefits will be even higher, especially if states go beyond the standards.

I stand for the Clean Power Plan, with the majority of Americans in all states, as a way to encourage a cleaner and brighter future. There is no need to trade economic vitality for a safe environment; rather they can go hand in hand. The bottom line is this: the Clean Power Plan, implemented well, can cut carbon pollution, make our businesses more competitive, create jobs, and lessen dangerous public health impacts across the country. It’s hard to imagine what we are waiting for.