Protesters interrupt EPA sole hearing on weaker power plant rules

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Two dozen activists stormed a public hearing on Monday hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency to rail against its plan to lift Obama-era carbon limits on power plants, causing agency officials to leave the room until the demonstration ended.

FILE PHOTO: Flags fly outside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at EPA headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2018. REUTERS/Ting Shen/File Photo

The protest marred the EPA’s only scheduled hearing on its proposed Affordable Clean Energy rule, a controversial plan that would allow states to write their own emissions guidelines instead of adhering to the strict limits set out in President Barack Obama’s so-called Clean Power Plan – the centerpiece of his efforts to combat global climate change.

The EPA will take written comments for another 30 days before finalizing the rule.

The demonstrators, who belonged to the group People’s Action, arrived in shirts reading “Stop Killing Us” and performed chants lasting roughly 15 minutes at the front of the hearing room, prompting the three EPA employees who were presiding over the meeting to leave.

“We are here today to reject this false, outrageous and murderous energy scam,” the demonstrators said, taking turns speaking the words.

Tony Pierce, one of the demonstrators, said he believed the EPA was not giving the public enough time to provide feedback on the plan.

The so-called ACE rule, proposed on Aug. 21, is intended by the administration of President Donald Trump to create jobs and save energy companies money.

The EPA said in a report here detailing the expected impact of the rule that it could result in 470 to 1,400 additional premature deaths annually by 2030.

Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat who attended the hearing, said less regulation on emissions could also intensify hurricanes and forest fires by contributing to climate change. An overwhelming number of scientists agree that climate change is driven by emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Trump and several members of his cabinet have expressed doubts about climate change, and the White House last year announced plans to withdraw the United States from a global pact to combat it.

Some at the hearing supported the proposal to lift the Obama-era plan.

Illinois state Senator Dale Fowler, a Republican, said his district in southern Illinois has six major coal mines and 1,300 miners that would have suffered financially under Obama’s proposed CPP rule, potentially raising energy costs for low-income consumers.

“The CPP was a gross overreach,” Fowler said. “Instead of regulating individual sources, it tried to set national energy policy as a one-size-fits-all.”

Reporting by Michael Hirtzer; editing by Richard Valdamanis and Leslie Adler

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