EPA’s proposed clean air rules assailed, supported at Denver hearing

Photo: Coal power plant Littleton (iStock)
Steam and smoke rise on a cold day at a coal-fired power plant along the Platte River in Littleton, just outside Denver, Colorado.

Hundreds of people across the country are telling the Environmental Protection Agency its new rules for power-plant pollution either go too far or not far enough.

The agency is holding hearings starting Tuesday in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington on President Barack Obama's plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

Denver's hearing got underway with Moffat County, Colorado, Commissioner John Kinkaid saying the rules would devastate the economy in his county, home to a major power plant.

Greg Schaefer with Arch Coal of Wyoming testified added federal regulations would be harmful.

"We’re concerned that this is going to cause so many coal mines to shut down that there will be a deep decline in jobs in that industry," Schaefer said.

The Colorado Mining Association says the proposed regulations would jeopardize 2,000 jobs in the state.

But supporters of the regulations, like Tom Hunt with Clean Energy Collective, say those jobs will be replaced by jobs in the clean energy sector. 

Hunt says his non-profit organization that helps build community solar gardens has seen major job growth since it began in 2009.

"We had one person working on a project in the mountains of Colorado," he said. "And then Colorado passed the Community Solar Gardens Act in 2010. Fast forward a few years, we are now at 80 people we directly employ and hundreds of contractors."

Hunt plans to testify Wednesday.

Other supporters also point out that Colorado has already passed its own regulations, which put the state on track to meet the proposed federal standard without federal rules. 

Retired coal miner Stanley Sturgill of Harlan County, Kentucky, traveled to Denver to tell the EPA that coal-fired plants are crippling public health. He urged the agency to do more.

The EPA hearing Denver is the only one west of the Mississippi. The EPA expects 1,600 people to speak in the four cities. The agency also has received more than 300,000 written comments.