Denver Hearings on Proposed EPA Power Plant Rules Draw Big Crowds

Mark Fix has been ranching outside of Miles City, Montana since the mid-1980s, raising cattle, alfalfa and grain on his 9,700 acre plot of land. But severe weather events have been stacking up in recent years: a tornado tore through his barn, flooding stranded his cows. It’s impacting his bottom line, and he’s convinced it’s from human-caused climate change.

“It seems like this carbon stuff has been affecting us in weird ways,” he said July 29  from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region Eight headquarters in Denver. Fix joined about 1,600 people in four cities giving feedback to the EPA last week on proposed rules restricting carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power plants.

Mark Fix

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

Mark Fix

The proposal, as we reported back in June, would be the biggest step taken by the U.S. so far to combat the effects of climate change. The rules call for cutting carbon emissions from power plants using a 2005 baseline by nearly a third in the next 15 years.

It’s accomplished through a complex state-by-state approach which requires fewer reductions the more an individual state relies on fossil fuels. While many environmentalists are hailing the proposal as an important step in the right direction, utilities and fossil fuel companies are saying it will lead to higher energy bills and a loss of jobs in sectors like the coal industry.

The public hearings on the rules, like the one attended by Mark Fix, were held in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington D. C. last week. The oral comments will be added to about 300,000 written comments the EPA has already taken on the rules.

“It’s really been a high level of engagement by the public, which is exactly what we are hoping for,” said Jenny Noonan, a member of the EPA team writing the rules. The agency is still accepting public comment online until mid-October and plans to release the final rules next June.

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