Cleaning Up Our Power Industry

This week I went to the EPA to speak in support of carbon pollution standards for new power plants. EPA is in the process of finalizing standards that would, for the first time, place limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants are permitted to spew into the atmosphere.

I went first and foremost because of my children. Their lives will be directly affected by the choices we make about whether and how much to limit the dangerous carbon pollution that is altering our climate.

I was at EPA in May of 2012 when the agency held a hearing on the prior version of this standard. (EPA revised and re-released the standard with some technical changes in how power plants were categorized.) I was there again this week. I'll keep coming back, until the work of limiting carbon pollution from power plants is done and done right. Each time I come back, I'll be recruiting more and more concerned moms and dads - because we are true stakeholders in this process.

Carbon pollution is disrupting our planet's climate. Three of its effects will directly harm our children's health:

  • Rising temperatures;
  • Ground level ozone, which forms in the atmosphere in the presence of heat, meaning that higher temperatures will fuel its production; and
  • Levels of dangerous particle pollution in areas with already-high levels of the tiny particles, such as most major cities.

So with climate change, we get increases in temperatures, increases in ozone, and increases in particle pollution, at least in some places. These three factors contribute to asthma attacks, heart attacks, heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, premature death, emergency room visits, hospital admissions, low birth weight, premature birth, diabetes, pneumonia, even autism. Many of these problems harm our children in particular. We at Moms Clean Air Force think that's unacceptable.

Carbon pollution, in other words, is not healthy for children and other living things.

Our electric utilities claim that they need the flexibility to give us cheap electricity. But what they call "cheap" could not be more expensive: a future of ill health created by us, to be endured by our children.

My kids are all in elementary school now, but I want to share something that happened to me when my children were babies, and I am sure it happens to most parents. Until I had children I was a very heavy sleeper, and could sleep through anything. But after I became a mom, it was as if my hearing became more sensitive.

If I heard my baby's little voice calling out in the night, I would find myself out of bed and halfway down the hall before she had even stopped to take a breath. I could hear her on a cellular level, in a different way than I had heard anything else before.

Her cry wasn't just a baby crying. It was my wake-up call of a deeper sort: You are now my mother, I heard her saying in that little cry. You will hear everything differently now.

And I do. I hear everything differently now.

It's called mother love. It's the jolt that makes us jump out of bed at night and go to our babies. When I go to EPA and deliver comments at a public hearing, I do it because of that same jolt of energy. There are currently no limits on the carbon emissions from power plants - that fact is like my baby crying in the night.

It's a signal that my children's future is on the line.

Moms have a lot of experience cleaning up messes. We know that most children won't clean up their rooms, or clear the dishes, or hang up their coats, on their own. Our power plants are no different. The carbon emissions that come from this sector are making a mess of our climate, and it's up to us, all of us, together, to make sure it stops. Our children deserve a well-regulated electric power industry that produces electricity from clean sources, without causing asthma, heart disease, premature birth, and other grave health effects. It's EPA's job to set the rules that will give us the power industry all Americans - and especially our children - deserve.

View photos from the public hearing at the EPA on proposed carbon pollution standards HERE.