DEP listening sessions on Clean Power Plan hit Philadelphia

Written by Susan Phillips/StateImpact Pennsylvania | Oct 1, 2015 12:48 PM

(AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

(Philadelphia) -- Making good on its commitment to hear all opinions before creating a plan to cut carbon emissions, the state Department of Environmental Protection held two listening sessions in southeastern Pennsylvania this week.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has ordered states to come up with the plans to cut emissions from power plants to combat climate change. Those who testified in Philadelphia largely support cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Tim McDonnell was one of about 30 people who showed up to testify at an afternoon session at the University of Pennsylvania.

McDonnell told DEP Secretary John Quigley about his long and prosperous job history working for Westinghouse and GE making gas turbines. But, he pleaded with the DEP to push for renewable energy, especially wind, which would require more heavy manufacturing jobs.

Speaking in the hallway after his testimony, he said his biggest fear is watching the next generation of workers lose out.

"We don't own the forces of production, okay? We don't choose how these things are distributed," he said. "We are not the investors that are making money off of this thing. Okay? So, there are a whole lot of other forces that are going to deal us right out of the picture. This change is coming, it's unavoidable."

Those unavoidable changes could threaten good paying jobs in the fossil fuel industry.

Coal miner jobs are especially threatened if the new rules make it impossible for power plants to burn coal.

Although Governor Tom Wolf and Quigley say there will still be a role for coal generation, it's hard to imagine what that would be.

Abby Foster is a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance. She said the technology to cut CO2 emissions at coal burning power plants, is not ready for widespread use.

"The way that we see it, there's just no path forward because the technology is not commercially available yet," she said. "It's such a quick timeline. We really hope that the governor and secretary Quigley can make good on their promises but we really don't see how it's possible."

Foster says the coal industry is trying to convince the Wolf Administration to ask the EPA for a two-year extension.

But, Quigley says Pennsylvania's plan will be ready by next year.

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