Activists push for environmental justice in federal power plant rules

 Demonstrators from the Climate Justice Alliance rally outside the Environmental Protection Agency in Center City. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Demonstrators from the Climate Justice Alliance rally outside the Environmental Protection Agency in Center City. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

About a dozen activists braved frigid temperatures and demonstrated outside the EPA’s Center City office Tuesday to advocate more stringent regulation on power plant emissions, especially for generators located in low-income and minority communities.

“Consider the most vulnerable first!” they chanted in a call-and-response exchange.

The demonstrators agree with the broad strokes of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which for the first time puts limits on the amount of carbon dioxide power plants can produce. But they take issue with the EPA’s support of some non-renewable energy sources and a carbon pollution-trading system.

“The Clean Power Plan as it is now and as most of the states will be implementing it will actually increase the impact on communities that are already very much oppressed,” said Angela Vogel of EDGE Philly, an environmental group opposed to hydraulic fracturing.

Together with Climate Justice Alliance members, who timed similar events at all 10 regional EPA offices, a small group of demonstrators met with EPA officials to present their own plan for power plants.

Rella Scassellati from Jessup, a small borough outside Scranton, made the trek to Philadelphia because she was particularly concerned for her neighborhood.

“They’re planning on building the largest gas power plant in the state within a half mile from my house,” she said, noting that there are a total of four proposed plants in her area.

“Our valley is beautiful — today,” she said. “Come see it two years from now. It’s going to be horrible.”

If the plants are approved, Scassellati said, she’ll have to consider moving.

David Arnold, acting director of the air protection division in EPA’s Region 3, urged those with concerns to engage with state environmental agencies as those departments develop the individualized plans, and to post comments online directly to EPA. The public comment period ends Thursday.

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