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EPA hearing on Clean Power Plan repeal draws crowds, protests

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Although the Trump administration says it's getting rid of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, environmental activists say they're not letting it go without a fight.

Though the Trump administration says it's getting rid of President Obama's Clean Power Plan, environmental activists say they're not letting it go without a fight.

On Tuesday, protesters and clean air advocates from up and down the West Coast gathered at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library, where EPA officials held one of four "listening sessions" to hear public comment.

Among those outside the library was a person dressed in a startlingly lifelike polar bear costume. "We're going to try to enter the EPA hearing because Frostpaw the polar bear would like to make comments on impacts to his icy home," said the polar bear's human handler.

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Although the EPA meeting did not allow signs or animals, other neighbors from the north did show up, including environmental administrators from the states of Oregon and Washington.

They were part of a delegation of state and regional environment officials who came to send a clear message: "I'm here to urge the EPA not to repeal the Clean Power Plan," one said to the panel of three officials and a court reporter.

The Clean Power Plan, adopted by the Obama Administration in 2014, calls for a one-third reduction in power plant pollution by 2030, replacing some coal-fired plants with wind and solar.

President Trump and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt announced in October they plan to repeal it. Having at least one public hearing is a required part of that repeal process. At the urging of local officials including late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the EPA added additional hearings to the schedule, including the one in notoriously progressive San Francisco and another in Wyoming, where coal is a major part of the economy. "Clean energy is already the cheapest energy on the grid in many cases," environmental consultant Daisy Pistey-Lyhne told the panel. "Sticking with fossil fuel generation is like deciding that we we want to stick with our flip phones."

For its part, the EPA did not provide interviews to the press during the hearing, but did give reporters a written statement saying, "EPA has proposed the repeal of the so-called Clean Power Plan because it was premised on a novel and expansive view of the Agency's authority under the Clean Air Act. The Clean Power Plan would also have had serious economic impacts on our country while doing little to help the environment," the statement says in part.

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Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer, who spoke on the steps of City Hall during the hearing, took issue with that statement. "They're listening to the money of the corporate contributors who are telling this president to keep going with fossil fuels," Steyer told a gathered crowd of supporters and school children.

Steyer was joined by San Francisco's acting mayor Mark Farrell. "We will fight to make sure that dirty fossil fuels remain in the ground," Farrell told the crowd.

Speakers at the demonstration touted the job creation and reduction in childhood breathing disorders they say could be realized by moving toward cleaner electricity. They said they were glad the EPA came to San Francisco to listen. "I know that in Washington, DC, the people are listening to something else, which is money," Steyer said.

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politicsenvironmentenvironmental protection agencyprotestenergySan Francisco
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