ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE LEADERS RESPOND TO U.S. EPA POWER PLANT RULES UPDATES

APRIL 25, 2024 – Today, leaders within the environmental justice movement responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants in new EPA Power Plant Rule Updates. 

Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice shared,

Our communities have been burdened by the adverse health impacts of fossil fuel power plants, which have been disproportionately sited in communities of color, for decades. With these final rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollutants from the power sector, we are beginning to see much-need changes that will help address some of these inequities. We commend the Biden administration and the EPA for listening to environmental justice organizations’ concerns about hydrogen as an option for emissions reduction, but we also remain vigilant in advocating for meaningful pollution reductions in our communities and a transition to renewable energy that avoids the potential co-pollutants and dangers of false solutions like CCS. We look forward to continuing this collaborative approach to address the needs of frontline communities and incorporating cumulative impacts and an environmental justice analysis in the development of regulations for existing gas plants.

Dr. Ana Isabel Baptista, Tishman Environment & Design Center shared,

We want to urge the USEPA to prioritize the health and wellbeing of environmental justice communities in the implementation of these rules. We look forward to seeing mandatory emissions reductions and approaches to reducing cumulative impacts embedded in the regulations now being developed for existing natural gas plants.

Maria Lopez-Nunez, Ironbound Community Corporation shared,

EPA has to show progress on cumulative impacts and mandatory emissions reductions if we are to believe that this administration is not just all talk regarding the welfare of the most vulnerable communities. These concepts must be embedded into existing and future regulation to safeguard our communities from bad local actors. 

Russell Armstrong, Senior Director Campaigns and Advocacy, Hip Hop Caucus shared, 

Hip Hop Caucus is happy to see these more stringent guidelines for coal plants as well as for air toxics and mercury that choke our communities. However, while these rules will help lower emissions and curtail adverse health impacts, we still have questions on the acknowledged over reliance on carbon capture as the technology for removal – even if not explicitly stated. Environmental justice communities continue to raise concerns about CCS and will continue to push for more up front and consistent involvement. As these regulations to clean up large and intermediate power plants, located disproportionately in BIPOC communities, are enforced, we look forward to being a partner and watchdog for good governance.

Dr. Nicky Sheats, Esq., Director, Center for the Urban Environment, John S. Watson Institute for Urban Policy and Research at Kean University and member of the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance shared,

I congratulate EPA on the decision to remove hydrogen co-firing from the power plant rule. However, cumulative impacts and mandatory emissions reductions policies should be incorporated into the rule to protect environmental justice communities in general, and especially as a safeguard for the potential harms of carbon capture technology, which unfortunately remains in the rule. These protective policies should also be incorporated into the existing gas plants portion of the rule.

Byron Gudiel, Executive Director at Center for Earth Energy and Democracy (CEED) shared,

Across the Midwest, environmental justice communities we work with disproportionately bear the burden of living near coal plants, gas plants, pipelines, extraction and refining facilities. We are pleased to see the suite of final rules centering the creation of climate and public health  benefits. We welcome the limited scope of hydrogen in setting the final carbon standards for existing coal plants and new gas plants.  A massive build out of carbon capture and storage projects and hydrogen infrastructure is NOT an equitable solution to decarbonizing and detoxifying our power sector. We remain committed to working with the EPA to address health harming pollution from the fleet of existing natural gas plants through future rulemaking processes. 

Melissa Miles, Executive Director, New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance shared,

The EPA Power Plant Rule update resulted from decades of organizing and advocacy and years of partnerships between the EPA and Environmental Justice communities. The EPA is modeling some of the best practices around the engagement of impacted communities, and these updated rules are a win for us all. At the same time, we acknowledge the parts of the rules flagged by communities as non-starters, namely the use of carbon capture, utilization and storage in EJ communities. The implicit inclusion of this dangerous technology was a loss for us all. However, we maintain hope that the next update will incorporate cumulative impacts and a mandatory emissions reduction approach to regulating existing power plants.

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