EPA Mercury Hearing: Young Peoples’ Powerful Voices

June 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm Leave a comment

On Thursday, May 26, US EPA held one of three national public hearings on its proposed mercury pollution regulation, which will be the first time mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants have been regulated in the United States.

Southern Energy Network partnered with multiple organizations to help turn folks out to the event and recruit individuals to testify, and it worked! More than 100 people testified to EPA staff during the hearing, and the vast majority of those testifying were there in support of the mercury regulations.

We heard powerful testimony from Simon M., a thirteen year-old from Kentucky who is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, as well as a college senior who is five months pregnant and who spoke powerfully about the health of the child in her womb and the mercury pollution from coal plants near her home.

Simon M., 13 years old

Speaking in opposition to the regulations were the usual suspects: Georgia Power and Southern Company, as well as Benita Dodd from the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a “market-oriented think tank,” according to Ms. Dodd’s testimony.

In my opinion, the testimonies from GA Power, Southern Company, and Ms. Dodd of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation were shameful. They claimed that mercury is not as serious a pollutant as EPA and the public fears, there are no recorded incidents of mercury poisoning from fish in Georgia, and that this regulation will be the most costly regulation on business in years.  The representative from Southern Company focused especially on how his business did not have time to prepare for these regulations, in spite of these regulations being in the works for nearly twenty years.

In spite of the opposition from the utilities, Georgia Youth for Energy Solutions had a strong showing at the hearing, with more than a dozen students and young people attending the hearing. Jessica Spruill, a rising sophomore at the University of Georgia, testified in the late afternoon, expressing her support for the measure on behalf of students at UGA and GA YES.

I also testified in the evening, though I changed my testimony shortly before I spoke. I decided that I would not offer anything new from what I had already heard; I could not present any new scientific data, and the personal stories presented were extremely compelling.  I did want to speak to the fact that those opposing the mercury regulations do not represent my opinion or the opinion of those I work with at SEN. Georgia Public Policy Foundation is not a grassroots or member-driven organization, so to hear Benita Dodd say, “Georgians don’t want this regulation,” doesn’t fly with me.

The main point I wanted to communicate with my testimony is that Southern Company is one of the largest energy company spenders on federal lobbying nationally; they spent $65 million lobbying Congress in 2008. They support and donate to the same Senators and Representatives who want to de-fund EPA and strip the Agency of its power to regulate pollutants under the Clean Air Act. I don’t find their arguments particularly trustworthy.

I am so thankful for the opportunity to speak to the EPA and give our student leaders the opportunity as well. We’ll need to remain alert to ensure that EPA follows through in finalizing and enforcing mercury pollution regulations.



Entry filed under: southern energy network.

Join SEN in Atlanta on May 26 to Support EPA Regulation of Mercury & Air-Toxics SEN Summer Program’s First Canvass of 2011!

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