Robin L. Blakeman: Clean Power Plan is abandoned at our peril

September 8, 2018

Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition Project Coordinator Robin Blakeman speaks during a meeting discussing multiple gas pipelines that are proposed for the Huntington and Tri-State area on Wednesday, March 15, 2017, at the Cabell County Public Library in Huntington.

There’s something I need to clarify about that Clean Power Plan which the Trump administration wants to dismantle. It was as much my Clean Power Plan as it was Obama’s. Why? Because, you see, I traveled from my West Virginia home to both Washington, D.C., and Denver to testify in favor of it.

I have at least eight generations of family heritage in West Virginia, most of which informs me that there are many other ways of making a living and feeding a family besides mining coal. My family values educational achievement, and we boast of many teachers in our family tree. My family generally respects scientific evidence on most topics. We love our family “home place” and cemeteries. There are many hunters and fishermen in my family who engage in their sport as much to get into the woods and streams as to catch or kill any game. Yet, not many in my family are willing to speak out about environmental issues; sadly this is common in Central Appalachia.

I am connected with many others who are willing to speak their minds, however, including several retired coal miners, faith community leaders, college professors, and many other Central Appalachian residents of multi-generational heritage. Many of those good folks traveled long distances to get to hearings to speak in favor of the Clean Power Plan, and many have similar stories of those journeys to mine, which follows:

When I traveled to D.C. for the initial CPP public hearing, it was on the last day of my dad’s life. I remember saying goodbye to him in his hospital room (not knowing it would be the last time I ever saw him alive). He told me he was proud of me and knew I had important work to do in D.C., so I should go do it. I followed his advice, even though a big part of me wanted to stay with him.

I got the news of his relatively sudden death at about 5 a.m. the next day, while in a hotel room in the D.C. metro area. I had a decision to make: immediately leave to go home to be with my mom, daughter and family, or go to the EPA to do what I had traveled so far to do. I again heard my dad telling me to do what needed done - for a better future for our family, especially my daughter and her cousins. So, I went on to deliver my testimony, and joined my voice with many others - as I also did about a year later in Denver, for the final round of public hearings on the CPP.

I was never so proud as when my Clean Power Plan was approved, and ever so disappointed that Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia’s current attorney general, and others brought petty lawsuits against it, resulting in delayed implementation.

I was heartbroken when the Trump administration announced its plan to effectively gut the CPP.

I have a message for those in power who influenced or praised this decision: Mr. Trump, Senators Manchin and Capito, Congressman Jenkins and Administrator Wheeler, if your plans become reality, you will have ensured that all my work, the work of many others, and the hope of my father on his dying day, are thrown in the gutter. You will have also likely doomed our children and grandchildren to a life in a dramatically altered global climate. The increasing frequency of floods, landslides and high wind events in West Virginia are proof.

The latest scientific estimates I’ve seen on climate change indicate that we have three years to make radical changes in our extraction, energy production and manufacturing processes in order to slow down the accelerating effects of climate change, or we are going to suffer the consequences of our inaction, possibly to the point of species eradication.

The Clean Power Plan may not have been perfect, but it was a big step in the right direction. The dismantling of it, as proposed in the so-called “Affordable Clean Energy proposal,” is a giant leap backward which humanity cannot afford.

We must embrace the promising future of renewable energy production and move rapidly away from fossil fuel based energy and manufacturing. Our children and their children will judge us by the type of world we leave to them. If you believe we must act now to curb the planet altering effects of climate change, please join me in a rally at Heritage Station in downtown Huntington on Sept. 8, beginning at 10 a.m. You will also find out about some local threats to our Ohio River water intakes. I know -through speaking out on these issues - that I will be able to look my descendants in the eye and say “I tried.” I hope they have a habitable world to grow up in.

The Rev. Robin L. Blakeman, a Huntington resident, is Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition project coordinator.

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