Public to DEQ: Virginia needs the Clean Power Plan

PORTSMOUTH – Climate change is real, it’s impacting Hampton Roads, and the Clean Power Plan promises concrete solutions to this growing crisis.

This was the message that played loud and clear Tuesday, Oct. 6 as Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality held its sixth and final “listening session” on the Clean Power Plan at Tidewater Community College’s Portsmouth campus.

This was the only session held in Hampton Roads, the area of Virginia most impacted by climate change and the second-most vulnerable region in the nation to the dangers of sea level rise.

Prior to the actual hearing, several speakers addressed these dangers – and those posed by air pollution, in general – during a brief conference organized by the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Virginia League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

Terra Pascarosa, of Moms Clean Air Force, spoke out in support of the Clean Power Plan, citing her concerns on the impact of air pollution on children’s health.

“Air pollution can trigger asthma attacks, it interferes with lung development and increases adverse birth outcomes in our children. Air pollution can also change our climate and trigger extreme weather events. To protect our families, especially our young ones and the elderly, we must significantly reduce carbon pollution from the largest source, which is existing power plants,” she said. “The success of America’s Clean Power Plan depends upon the cooperation of every state in the union. Virginia needs to be a leader in the U.S. on this. I’m asking Virginia to do everything they can to facilitate this vital process.”

Lia Costner, a Virginia Beach native and ICU nurse at Norfolk General Hospital, said she has noticed an increase in dangerous flooding in recent years and that these trends will only worsen if we don’t change course.

“The issues that we face with the climate change are only going to get worse if we continue to focus our sights on fossil fuels,” she said.

Costner added that the public health impacts of burning fossil fuels are also evident, with both Richmond and Virginia Beach listed as top-10 asthma capitals, nationwide.

“In my field, we all too often realize that we could have done more for our patients had we gotten to them sooner, before they became critically ill. We wish we could have taught them just how crucial health wellness and maintenance are to their overall wellbeing,” Costner said. “Lets translate this same concept into our environmental health.”

Nisha Witt, president and founder of Aesop Technologies, a solar business in Norfolk, spoke to the positive impact that the Clean Power Plan will have on Virginia’s economy through investments in renewable energy technology, an industry that’s still in its infancy in the Commonwealth but has been fast growing across the nation.

“Do you know how many solar technology-based companies are based in Hampton Roads? I’ll give you a hint: you can count them on one hand. There’s five. When you go to California, you can find at least 10 to 15 different companies in the same market,” Witt said. “What I find ironic about this situation is that we are the ones at risk of coastal flooding. As the state of Virginia, we need to create a competitive market for renewable energies.”

For years, scientists have warned about the impact that burning fossil fuels was having on the climate. Carbon pollution from power plants accounts for the largest share of domestic greenhouse gas emissions and by targeting these sources, specifically, the Clean Power Plan offers the best chance to make a lasting difference and to battle back climate change.

Under the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given states leeway on how to hit their customized reduction goals.

In Virginia this will mean increased investments in renewable energy and efficiency while shifting away from the fossil fuel sources that have traditionally powered our grid. The listening sessions were the first step forward in drafting a state implementation plan in the Commonwealth

DEQ officials did not deliver any formal presentations during Tuesday’s hearing. Of the 28 speakers who weighed in during the listening session, all spoke in support of the Clean Power Plan, a trend that extended to many of the other listening sessions, as well.

DEQ continues to accept written comments through Oct. 13.

Citizens should provide their full name, address and telephone number and email these to ghg@deq.virginia.gov, fax to (804) 698-4510, or mail to the Air Division, Department of Environmental Quality, P.O. Box 1105, Richmond VA 23218.

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