Frontline Communities Weigh in on Clean Power Plan, Hopeful it Moves Forward

For Immediate Release
September 26th, 2016
Contact: Brooke Havlik, 212-961-1000 ext. 320,

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard arguments to determine if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the legal authority to implement its Clean Power Plan (CPP), which calls for a 32 percent emissions reduction from 2005 levels, nationwide by 2030. Today, environmental justice advocates attended a panel discussion at Georgetown Law School entitled, “Get an Insider’s View Following Oral Arguments in the Clean Power Plan Case.” The event provided an opportunity to hear from attorneys who argued on both sides of the case.

Since the rule was proposed in 2014, WE ACT for Environmental Justice and its frontline allies from the Environmental Justice Leadership Forum on Climate Change (EJLF) have called on the EPA to require that the state implementation of the plan moves the United States toward a clean energy future for all, especially as carbon emissions disproportionately impact communities of color and low income communities nationwide. For example:

  • 68% of African Americans live within thirty miles of a coal plant;
  • 80% of Latinos live in environments that do not meet U.S. EPA air quality standards;
  • Black children are 4.4x more likely to be hospitalized due to asthma attacks than their white peers; and
  • Latino kids are 60% more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than their white peers.

The current plan allows flexibility with customized implementation plans for each state in order to protect public health and stop climate change on community residents’ terms. “WE ACT advocates for state plans that prioritize community benefits, such as green jobs, among populations that are most burdened by pollution and poverty associated with the energy sector, ” says Dr. Adrienne Hollis, Director of Federal Policy at WE ACT.

Reverend Leo Woodberry of Kingdom Living Temple in South Carolina and ELJF member stated that, “Opposition to the Clean Power Plan is about fossil fuel companies maintaining a vertically integrated, ‘natural monopoly’ that ensures their dominance and profitability in the least competitive environment. The continued advances in energy efficiency, improved building construction, decreasing solar costs and a national and global consensus to reduce carbon emissions reflect the will of the people. It is our prayer that the Court holds firm to its mandate to protect our rights, not place profits over people.”

“The DC Circuit argument made it obvious that EPA has the legal authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants” said Shana Lazerow, staff attorney at Communities for a Better Environment, an organizational member of the EJLF. “During the argument, however, EPA was not able to point to any authority to set up a pollution trading scheme for GHGs, which would deprive communities of the pollution reductions they need most. The Clean Air Act set up trading schemes for other pollutants, but not for GHGs. EPA cannot create that authority for itself. Our communities support the Clean Power Plan, but not pollution trading.” Lazerow added that, “In addition to dooming our planet, these plants are polluting low income communities and communities of color.”

Dr. Hollis added, “As it appears the CPP is here to stay, we are focused on ensuring that representatives from communities most adversely affected by climate change are included in a state’s implementation plan. This way the needs of those most impacted by climate change will be heard.”

Dana Beasley Brown of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth expanded the conversation outside the CPP adding, “Across Kentucky people are pulling together to build a just, clean energy economy and a healthier future for our children. Our political leaders have failed to step up to their moral responsibility. So it’s up to us. We are excited to share our ideas this weekend at the Empower Kentucky Summit, one of largest and most diverse gatherings ever in our state focused on shaping a bright energy future – for all of us.”

Looking forward, WE ACT and EJ Forum allies will continue to work with local and state governments and state agencies to develop strong, equitable, and just implementation plans.

Stay Up To Date