Bangor, Maine—Environment Maine, along with a broad coalition of Maine groups supporting clean air safeguards, announced today that they have collected more than 15,000 public comments here in the state and a record two million comments nationwide in support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Carbon Pollution Standard, which limits industrial carbon pollution from new power plants.
The comments, totaling 2.2 million nationally and 15,201 in Maine, were collected over the past 11 weeks, and the groups expect thousands more to be collected in the coming weeks. This unprecedented tally is the largest number of comments ever submitted to EPA during a public comment period and far exceeds the previous record for comments submitted on an EPA issue.
“These rules would be a historic step to clean up our air and keep our families healthy. We stand with more than 15,000 Mainers to applaud these new standards. Mainers want clean air that doesn’t threaten their health or the environment, and over the past three months they have made their voices heard loud and clear,” said Ben Seel, Clean Energy Organizer with Environment Maine.
In late March, EPA proposed these first-ever standards to limit carbon pollution from new power plants. Monday marked the close of the formal opportunity for the public to provide input to EPA.
Doctors, scientists, and other experts agree that carbon pollution threatens our health, plain and simple, by fueling global warming, which increases the formation of lung-damaging and asthma-attack inducing smog and is particularly dangerous for kids and seniors. Global warming also contributes to more deadly heat waves, floods, and the spread of infectious diseases, like the recent increase in cases of Lyme disease in Maine.
“Far too many Mainers are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution. Air pollution affects all of us but particularly the nearly 23,000 children and 93,000 adults who suffer from asthma,” said Shawn Yardley, Director of the State Coordinating Committee for Public Health.
“All living things have a God-given right to enjoy clean air, which knows no boundaries and is shared by all living things around the planet. It is our obligation to ensure that we care for God’s Creation and that we stop those who pollute the air, especially when clean energy solutions are readily available,” said Rabbi Justin Goldstein, Board Member of Maine Interfaith Power and Light and religious leader of Congregation Beth Israel in Bangor.
Power plants are the largest U.S. source of carbon pollution. Until now, power plants have been allowed to dump unlimited amounts of this pollution into our air—more than two billion tons annually. While Maine has no coal-fired power plants, we obtain about 10 percent of our electricity from coal, and such high levels of pollution acutely impact us.
Coal companies and electric utilities, among other polluters, are fighting clean air standards every step of the way, trying to try to derail the new rules before they’re even finalized.
“Maine has everything to gain and nothing to lose from efforts to curb pollution from coal power plants upwind of us,” said Dylan Voorhees, Clean Energy Director of the Natural Resources Council of Maine. “The Midwest has been burning coal at our expense for too long. Cleaning our air and reducing carbon pollution are central to Maine’s well-being and the core reasons that Maine people and businesses have long supported the move toward clean energy,” he continued.
“I am here today to celebrate the amazing outpouring of support from the people of Maine for the EPA’s proposed carbon pollution standard. Mainers know that clean air is essential to improve public health. Mainers know that clean air is a necessity if we want to reduce the startling numbers of childhood and adult asthma cases in the state,” said Laurie Osher of Osher Environment Systems.
The organizations and officials applauded EPA for proposing the historic standards and urged the agency to finalize them this year and also move forward with strong new rules to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. Additionally, the groups called on Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to support the new rules from inevitable attacks in Congress.
“The message today is clear: Mainers want cleaner air and less industrial carbon pollution, and they want EPA to protect their kids, their families, and their communities from the dangerous effects of global warming. We are blown away by the unprecedented support demonstrated by the more than 2 million comments from Americans who support EPA’s historic standards to reduce carbon pollution from new power plants while urging EPA to move forward with a strong standard for existing power plants,” concluded Seel.
Environment Maine is a statewide, citizen-based advocacy organization dedicated to clean air, clean water, and open space. For more information, please visit www.environmentmaine.org.