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May 24, 2012 

UCS and Chicago Community Leaders Speak Out in Support of EPA’s Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard

(CHICAGO) May 24, 2012 -- Local community leaders held a press conference at Kluczynski Plaza today to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move forward with a federal carbon standard for new power plants. Speakers at the event also highlighted the fact that Chicagoans are taking action in their own communities to fight climate change.

Across the street from the plaza, more than 100 people packed into a Metcalfe Federal Building room to testify in support of the new standard at an EPA hearing.

“We need federal action because it's the cities - like Chicago - who are left holding the bag,” said Alderman Danny Solis of the 25th Ward. “Pollution is a very important issue to my constituents because it directly affects their quality of life. As a local leader, we need to be able to quickly respond to the urgent pollution and health concerns of the people of Chicago. The most effective way to address pollution quickly is for the EPA to set comprehensive carbon pollution emission regulations at the national level which allow city and state officials to protect the health and safety of our communities.”

Steve Frenkel, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Midwest office, in Chicago, who moderated the press conference, noted that climate change is already bringing an earlier spring, heavier rains and hotter summers to Chicago. “Unless we reduce carbon pollution,” he said, “Chicago could see an entire month of over 100 degrees by the end of the century, which is why it’s critical that the EPA cuts carbon emissions from power plants, our nation’s biggest source of greenhouse gases.”

Brian Urbaszewski, the director of environmental health programs at Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, said the rising temperatures take a toll on public health.

“The new standard would help protect public health by reducing smog from carbon pollution,” said Urbaszewski. “Bad air quality is especially dangerous for children, who are at risk for asthma attacks and other health problems.”

Besides protecting public health, regional labor leaders say the carbon standard would benefit the economy.

“Clean energy standards are already creating jobs in Michigan and around the country,” said Bryan Grochowski, a member of Service Employees International Union Local 517 in Michigan who testified at the Chicago hearing. “We need smart policies and investments to continue that growth. This proposed standard will spur innovation in clean energy technologies, which will create more of these good jobs that are also good for our environment.”

Two press conference speakers described what Illinois residents are doing to address climate change. Jennifer Hirsch, senior urban anthropologist at the Field Museum, has worked with organizations throughout Chicago to help implement the region’s climate action plans and strengthen ongoing community work at the same time.

“For example, we worked with a Boy Scout troop on Chicago’s Northwest Side to install roosting boxes for bats in their neighborhood forest preserve. The boxes strengthen habitat corridors for this climate-sensitive species. The project had the dual goal of helping Boy Scouts earn top Scouting awards, and it also strengthened their connections to the natural areas for which the Northwest Side is well-known,” said Hirsch.

Rev. Clare Butterfield, the executive director of Faith in Place and the Illinois Interfaith Power & Light Campaign, said Illinois congregations also are taking action. Bridgeview’s Mosque Foundation, for example, now gets all its power from solar energy; Urbana’s St. Matthew Lutheran Church converted 4 acres into a community farm; and Evanston’s Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation built the world’s first LEED certified house of worship.

“People in the faith community are supporting this first-ever limit on the global warming pollution from power plants because we see it as part of our religious responsibility to care for creation,” said Butterfield. “We are here as stewards for our grandchildren, and for the one who placed us here.”

The proposed standard is the first under the federal Clean Air Act to set national limits on the amount of carbon pollution newly built power plants can emit. The Chicago hearing is one of two national hearings held by EPA to solicit public input on the standard.

The comment period runs through June 25.  With about a month still left, the standard already has generated more comments in support of the rule than any other EPA rule in history.

 

 

The Union of Concerned Scientists puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet's most pressing problems. Joining with citizens across the country, we combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe, and sustainable future.

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