Southeast Residents Rally Behind Stricter Carbon Regulations for Power Plants

Residents across the Southeast are rallying behind the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed carbon regulations for power plants, emphasizing a shared commitment to a cleaner future.

Julian Harden | September 11, 2023 | Clean Energy Generation, Climate Change, Coal, Utilities

Earlier this year, in a stride toward a more sustainable future, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to reduce carbon pollution from coal and gas-powered power plants. Framed within section 111 of the Clean Air Act, this initiative seeks to curtail the carbon footprint that our nation’s energy sector has long created, casting a long shadow over our country’s public health and environmental safety. Under the purview of this proposal, coal power plants and some gas plants—responsible for about a quarter of the nation’s carbon emissions–will need to scale back their output of carbon pollutants. This is significant because carbon pollution from the vast majority of power plants has essentially never been regulated by the federal government despite the large share of emissions from power plants.

The EPA proposal is not due to be final until next year, but this summer, the EPA held a public comment period on the proposed rules. Public comments filed during this period included resounding support for the regulations from across the Southeast region. SACE and Clean Energy Generation members made a difference by submitting over 850 comments to the EPA supporting the proposed rules and a greener future.

We’ve compiled some of the comments from the heart of the Southeast—a chorus of voices, each echoing the urgent call for stricter carbon regulations for power plants. Commenters represent communities spanning the region that bear the brunt of pollutants emitted by these power plants and grapple with the far-reaching consequences. These voices resonate not merely as comments in an official procedure, but as personal testimonies that paint a vivid picture of the pressing need to rein in emissions. These are just a few of the growing number of individuals who are willing to stand up and take collective action as the Clean Energy Generation, demanding policies that will protect our health, our communities, and our planet.

Here’s what they said they want:

A cleaner planet to safeguard our families’ well-being and that of future generations

“This is the right action to take for future generations. I worry about the mess we are leaving our grandchildren.” – Kathleen Gates, Florida. 

“Please support this EPA proposed plan to help our children and grandchildren deal with this obvious climate crisis.” – Jim Carillon, Fairview, NC.

“As a physician, a mother, and a grandmother, I feel we must stop carbon pollution as soon as possible! This [carbon rule] is critical for our citizens and planet’s health.”Katherine Sutherland, Winter Haven, Florida. (Read why Kathie also joined the Clean Energy Generation here.) 

A way to address climate change while holding those responsible for pollution accountable

“Please help make the U.S. a leader in fighting climate change by finalizing the strongest version of the new rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. We are running out of time. Half measures are not enough.” – Nancy Power, Rockingham, North Carolina.

Meaningful regulation of carbon emissions is past due and critical for the survival of our species. Thank you, President Biden, for your leadership on this issue in the face of calculated misinformation.”  – Holly Schwartz, Florida.

“I support strong climate pollution controls on all power plants, whether new or old. I am a retired federal land manager and conservation planner who worked on climate change adaptation and mitigation policy for the southern US. I know how much easier and healthier life would be if the governmental authorities had stepped up to curb climate pollution instead of the people fighting to be safe and healthy. Please take this opportunity to continue to take our country in the right direction and help humanity and our planet. Thank you.” Mary Long, Tennessee.

“Meaningful action is needed to reduce power plant pollution, and EPA is best positioned to act. We have some of Tennessee’s worst fossil fuel plants, and converting to gas plants is not a good long-term solution. Regulation should encourage clean energy production and hold polluters accountable.” – Quentin Humberd, Cunningham, Tennessee.

“Please help transition the United States’ energy generation to renewables! Remove the roadblocks for solar and wind permitting, please! We must think about future generations.” – Frank Galloway, Florida.

“Clean electrical generation technology is mature and cost-competitive. Utilities can transition if Congress expedites permitting reform for wind, solar, and long-distance transmission.” Mark Gould, Charleston, South Carolina.

 “I live in an area where electric providers are trying to replace coal plants with fossil gas. While I welcome the shutdown of the coal plants, my community has many concerns about methane leaks, particularly groundwater contamination. I strongly feel that our communities will be better served and healthier if we stop ALL fossil fuel expansion and work toward a just transition to an electric grid powered by clean, renewable energy.” – Laura Rastl, Clarksville, Tennessee.

The support from residents across the Southeast echoes a shared aspiration for cleaner air, healthier communities, and a planet safeguarded for future generations. Their voices speak to the urgency of action and reflect a chorus of resilience and determination to champion the cause of a greener energy landscape.

What’s Next?

Through the lens of these residents, we witness the profound impact power plant emissions have had and continue to have on our region’s communities, environment, and public health. These perspectives underscore the need for stricter regulations prioritizing the transition to clean energy, which will help us realize a future unburdened by the shackles of carbon pollution.

The EPA’s proposal serves as a sign of progress that shows a path toward a more sustainable energy future, but it’s far from over. While the public comment period is closed, some utilities across our region are pushing back against the proposed rules. We need to keep up the momentum and let the EPA and our utilities know that we are not letting up on our support for these crucial rules that will make our communities and our planet healthier.

SACE is working with individuals to write letters to editors supporting strong standards to cut carbon pollution. Want to help? Reach out to [email protected] to get started!

In addition, we urge EPA to work to ensure environmental justice is delivered through these rules and that the needs of frontline communities are met, considering the environmental impacts of the rules. Also, EPA should strengthen its proposal so that it covers more existing gas plants – as is, the proposed level of coverage would only address 30% of CO2 emissions from existing gas-fired power plants, leaving the vast majority essentially unregulated.

Impassioned comments from our neighbors, like those above, points out the responsibility to act that rests with government entities and policy makers – but we should never forget that responsibility also lies with every one of us who cares about the legacy we leave for the generations that follow to hold those in power accountable. By joining this collective voice, we can build momentum as the Clean Energy Generation to shape a cleaner, healthier, and more resilient world. Join us as we support their call for meaningful change, support EPA’s proposal, and work together to usher in an era where carbon emissions no longer threaten our health and safety. 

Julian Harden
This blog was written by a former staff member of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
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