Last week, I rode a bus from Indianapolis to Chicago for one of eleven listening sessions on the carbon pollution standards being proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency. When we arrived in Chicago, I took to the stage to help rally the 500-person crowd (video here), calling on the EPA to put forward strong, just standards for the number one source of the pollution that is wreaking havoc with our climate - power plants.
Let me tell you, it was inspiring.
The volunteers who rode that bus with me, and the thousands more who rallied at listening sessions around the nation, were there for a host of reasons: faith leaders who see climate change as the biggest moral issue of our time, high school and college students worried about their future, business people concerned about the costs of inaction, parents and grandparents terrified about the future for the kids they love.
Local elected officials, students, moms and dads, doctors and nurses, ministers and rabbis - they were all there to weigh in as the EPA begins drafting carbon standards for existing power plants that will be released next June. All told, more than 2,000 people attended these listening sessions to support strong EPA action. From Chicago to Kansas to Washington, D.C., and beyond, here are some of the highlights:
At Chicago's hearing, 500 people rallied in support of the EPA's carbon standards and more than 700 participated in support throughout the day. Attending the listening session was a crowd of more than 70 Detroit residents (pictured above) who made a long bus journey to Chicago. Many were from River Rouge, a community in Detroit suffering from severe environmental injustices, including the pollution from a nearby coal plant. After hearing previous expert testimony that correlated where people live to life expectancy, one River Rouge resident, Barbara Loving - a two-time cancer survivor - spoke about the need for support from the EPA in the community's fight for a healthy environment.
Another River Rouge resident, Reginald Myers, a worker at local Chrysler plant who also traveled to the hearing with his wife, Amina, and their four-month old daughter, testified about his concerns over buying a new home in the downriver community where he grew up while trying to raise a family.
At the EPA hearing in Lenexa, Kansas, more than 150 carbon standard supporters showed up to rally, and then more than 100 testified!
Down in Dallas, crowds of local Sierra Club activists also rallied and testified. Speakers included doctors, pastors, youth groups, scientists, city officials, and many others. Some activists chatted with one of the few coal supporters who told us, "You guys are everywhere!" Even the local news reported that the t-shirts beat the suits that day.
A stroller brigade greeted the EPA listening session in San Francisco (cute video here), where parents spoke out for the importance of the carbon pollution standards in protecting their kids' futures. Attendees were touched when they heard the mother of a two-year old speak beautifully about how concerned she is for the future of her son's generation. Also powerful: a ten-year old boy spoke about how climate change is affecting his home, and the activities he and others love to do.
I could go on and on - there are stories like those from the Denver, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia listening sessions as well. Americans want the EPA to require that the coal industry curb its carbon pollution in order to protect our health, keep our air and water clean, and help stop climate disruption.
We applaud the EPA for proving the kind of leadership on climate change that this nation needs so urgently.