Proposed Rules to Reduce Carbon Emissions the Subject of EPA Hearings in Denver

Jul 30, 2014

Coal supporters opposed to the EPA rules rally in front of the state capitol.
Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR

Hundreds of people are expected to testify in Denver this week on proposed rules to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. The Denver hearing is one of several the Environmental Protection Agency is hosting across the country on the plans.

Sixty-nine year old Stanley Sturgill is from a small coalmining town in southeastern Kentucky. He flew to Denver for the day just to make his voice heard…

Stanley Sturgill from Kentucky testifies in support of the EPA rules at Tuesday's hearing in Denver. He's a former coal miner who suffers from respiratory illnesses.
Credit Bente Birkeland / RMCR

“I worked in the coal mines for 41 years, in an underground coal mine as a coal miner, and federal coalmine inspector,” said Sturgill. “I don’t have long to live, common sense will tell you that, because I have black lung and COPD and other respiratory ailments.”

COPD is a progressive disease that makes breathing difficult. Sturgill said he wants to spend the time he has left working to make the air cleaner. He supports the EPA rules to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. He only wishes the rules went even farther.

“We’re dying, literally dying and it’s their job to help us,” he said. “The war on coal, is a war that king coal, the industry has falsified.” 

But others in the coal industry argue the rules are too burdensome, will increase energy costs, and cripple the industry. Several-hundred coal supporters opposed to the EPA rules held a separate rally in front of the state capitol. They praised the coal industry for providing high paying jobs and helping create a stronger middle class.

“It was paying enough to where I could support my family and what we needed to support ourselves,” said John Simonet. He is also an underground coal miner and said five years ago he took his job at Twentymile Coal company near Craig Colorado because it was dependable.

The new rules are intended to reduce greenhouse gases and curb global warming.  It’s part of the Climate Plan President Barack Obama unveiled last year. According to the EPA, carbon pollution is leading to long lasting climate changes, such as rising temperatures and sea levels, and more droughts, wildfires, floods, hurricanes and other extreme weather events.

“I think it’s a historic moment and a step in the right direction,” said Carey Christ-Janer, a renewable energy advocate in Colorado and California. She wants the EPA to give even more direction to states in crafting emission reduction plans, and thinks there should be a lot of coordination to keep energy prices low.  

“We don’t want to quadruple the rates. We want to keep energy affordable and have renewable energy for the most people possible,” said Christ-Janer.

The day’s events also took a political turn when Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez spoke at the pro-coal rally. Beauprez said when his grandfather immigrated to Colorado from Belgium, his first job was working in a coal mine. But he said times have changed.

“We have never used coal, cleaner, safer more efficiently than we do right now,” said Beauprez. “That isn’t something to punish. It’s something to celebrate. Why would you cripple the great American and the Colorado economy when it needs a helping hand the most?”

Colorado officials said the state will have an easier time complying than many other parts of the country. The state already has a renewable energy standard requiring larger utility companies to get 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources by the year 2020. Colorado lawmakers also passed a bill in 2010 to replace some older coal fired power plants and switch to cleaner burning natural gas.