The group “camped” in the cafeteria of Charles Barrett Elementary School in Alexandria, complete with tents, outdoor games and s'mores. They also celebrated a milestone achievement: Environment Virginia, along with a broad coalition of Virginia groups supporting clean air safeguards, announced on Monday, June 25, that they have collected more than 77,000 public comments here in the state and a record 2.2 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.
“Northern Virginia already suffers from too many days when smog pollution makes it dangerous for kids, the elderly, and people with asthma to spend time outside. Industrial carbon pollution, particularly from power plants, leads to more smog that threatens our health and our environment and forces us to spend more of the summer inside,” said Laura Kate Anderson, field organizer with Environment Virginia.
“Virginians want clean air that doesn’t threaten their health or the environment, and over the past two months they have made their voices heard loud and clear. We already knew Americans strongly supported the EPA’s efforts to reduce dangerous air pollution, but our expectations have been exceeded by the unprecedented support demonstrated by the more than two million comments from Americans who support EPA’s historic standard to curb dangerous carbon pollution from new power plants.”
The comments, totaling 2.2 million nationally and 77,000 in Virginia, were collected over the past eleven 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 number of comments EPA has ever received on any prior issue.
The Obama administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed these first-ever standards for carbon pollution from new power plants on March 27, 2012. Carbon pollution fuels global warming, which leads to more of the air pollution that triggers asthma attacks and other respiratory problems.
Virginians are already exposed to too much dangerous air pollution. Almost one third of Virginia counties received a grade of “F” from the American Lung Association for their ozone pollution levels. Ozone pollution, or smog, is dangerous for all Virginians, but especially the nearly 100,000 children and 300,000 adults who suffer from asthma.
Every year, power plants emit more than two billion tons of dangerous carbon pollution. Virginia power plants alone emitted more than 30 million tons of carbon pollution in 2010.
“The bottom line is that the EPA’s new clean air standards are common sense. For too long, unchecked industrial carbon pollution has threatened our health by increasing temperatures and smog that damages lungs and worsens asthma attacks,” said Soham Pandit, regional field director with the League of Conservation Voters. “That’s why an unprecedented 2.2 million Americans have submitted comments urging the EPA to protect them from dangerous air pollution that threatens the health of our kids, seniors, and families.”
“We applaud the EPA for proposing these much-needed standards, and we urge the agency to finalize the standards this year—for Virginians’ health and our environment,” concluded Laura Kate Anderson.
Environment Virginia is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.