Thursday, November 30, 2017

EPA hears worries about climate in heart of coal country

After more than four decades as a coal miner, Stanley Sturgill ambled into an ornate room at West Virginia’s state capitol Tuesday to deliver a stark message to the Trump administration: Climate change is real and continuing to burn the dirty fossil fuel hurts future generations.

He was among dozens who had their say at a public hearing over the intended repeal of an Obama-era plan to limit planet-warming carbon emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency was holding the only scheduled hearing on the policy reversal in Charleston, capital of a state heavily dependent on coal mining. The hearing was expected to last two days.

There were warnings from the other side, too — that the regulations threaten to choke off livelihoods in coal country and drive up people’s energy costs. But despite the locale of the hearing, those concerned about climate change packed the hearing room.

Sturgill, who said he suffers from black lung disease, wanted the Clean Power Plan upheld for his three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He and his wife drove several hours from Lynch, Kentucky, to speak because “we may be old, but we still love living.”

“Now to be realistic, do I really think that the administration cares what this old worn coal miner has to say?” asked Sturgill, 72, who conceded that his pro-environment views were not popular in his hometown. “I don’t know. I really doubt it. But I had to be here, and as long as I can draw a breath, I’m going to keep working to fight climate change and protect the land and country I love.”


Environmental activist Vicki Mattson of Athens, Ohio, said her home county has four solar power installation companies. Clean energy will create well-paying new jobs, she said.

“We all need to look at solar and wind,” Mattson said. “Clean power is the future. We can join the rest of the world or be left behind.”

Sturgill, the retired miner, said the EPA under the Trump administration was protecting fossil-fuel industry profits at the expense of the environment and the health of Americans who have to breathe polluted air.

He recounted a Native American proverb, and urged the policy makers at EPA to take it to heart: “When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten, and the last stream poisoned, only then will you realize you cannot eat money.”

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