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Kelly Benjamin EPA Carbon Rule Testimony
My name is Kelly Benjamin and I work on climate and health issues with Physicians for Social Responsibility. I'd like to first address the Clean Power Plan as a Floridian. I hail from Tampa, Florida, the Sunshine State-although we unfortunately have not invested much in solar technology. Instead we get over a quarter of our power from coal burning plants-we get more from natural gas -- which I'd love to see the EPA address next. There are 15 dirty coal burning power plants in Florida including Big Bend power plant which is right on the edge of Tampa Bay.
Although Big Bend has scrubbers, it's still dirty. Coal is Dirty. There is no such thing as "clean coal." And that's partly why Hillsborough County, where Tampa sits, where I grew up, has the worst smog in the state of Florida. My County receives an "F" rating from the American Lung Association every year for having the highest number of days when people with conditions like asthma shouldn't exert themselves outside in the afternoon. Growing up there, I had asthma. Many of my friends did and still do. A strong carbon rule can help us change that for the generations that come after us.
As most people in this room already know there is scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is contributing to a rapidly heating planet. Despite the propaganda from those in the fossil fuel industry who make a great deal of money polluting the air we breathe, we know that our actions are causing runaway climate change.
It just so happens that two of the cities that are among the world's most endangered by climate change according to the National Research Council, are two of the largest cities in Florida: Miami and my hometown of Tampa/St. Petersburg.
These cities are facing the gravest risk of “potential average annual losses” from coastal flooding. Florida is at sea level. Sea level rise is going to be devastating. It's already happening in my state -- where most of the population live on the coast.
Florida is also at high risk for extreme weather caused by climate change. We get hurricanes. Which can cause contaminated water. And with climate change comes an increase in water borne diseases as well as insect borne diseases like the West Nile Virus or even Malaria. Climate change is a direct threat to human health.
At least 1,500 people lost their lives during Hurricane Katrina -- many of those deaths were a direct result of a 28 foot storm surge. A strong carbon rule can help lessen the likelihood of these kinds of storms in the future.
President Obama and the EPA should be commended for pushing forward with a significant step toward addressing climate change but it's important to note, that this proposal is not enough. If this country is going to adequately respond to the danger posed by global warming caused by industrial emissions and have a chance of catching up with the physics of climate change, we have got to do more. We can't be bullied or mislead by those who are more concerned with making a profit than protecting public health. Thank you.