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May 19, 2009

Report from the 1st EPA Global Warming Endangerment Hearing

Conference crowd  
The crowd at our mid-day EPA hearing press conference.

I had the pleasure of attending much of yesterday's first public hearing from the Environmental Protection Agency on its global warming endangerment finding. This hearing was held at the EPA office in Arlington, VA, and featured a great crowd of people who want the EPA to do the right thing and regulate global warming pollution.

While I only saw the speakers from the hearing's start at 9am until noon, it featured a good variety of people from all types of backgrounds. There were many activists and staffers from the Sierra Club, as well as from many other environmental organizations. There were state environmental employees, faith leaders, business leaders, professors, scientists, doctors, and more - almost all of which were on our side.

The testimony from the day's speakers ranged from scientific findings to personal stories, and to inspirational calls to action.

I was particularly struck by one speaker - Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the director of outreach at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Virginia and the head of government relations for the Muslim Alliance of North America. Abdul-Malik had some very inspiring words about why we must all take action.

"America has the opportunity to lead again, this time against the terror of climate change," he said during his rousing testimony.

Photo 005
The Sierra Club's Virginia Cramer and Mark Kresowik prepare the day's signs.

Sierra Club press secretary Virginia Cramer was also inspired by all the faith leaders who came to testify.

"(They) were really amazing," said Cramer. "To hear perspectives from almost every major tradition on the importance of acting on global warming was a powerful experience-- one that the EPA panel was still talking about during one of the breaks."

Also that morning came testimony from a doctor who started off by listing health impacts, then revealed that those he listed had already been documented and were not just a list of what could happen to our health if global warming continues.

Photo 004  
Glen Besa testifies to the EPA.

Glen Besa of the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club also testified about the health impacts of pollution, holding up his asthma inhaler and saying that he hopes he won't have to use it more often as our atmosphere deteriorates.

Only a few nay-sayers testified, which was quite surprising to me and to fellow attendee Mark Kresowik of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

"The four or five climate change deniers and industry lobbyists present looked discouraged as speaker after speaker urged the EPA to move away from the dirty coal and oil interests of the past," said Kresowik.

Hearing speaker
Another clean energy supporter testifies to the EPA.

He estimated that more than one hundreds folks turned out to testify and attend our mid-day press conference that featured some great speakers on global warming - including two Congressmen. Kresowik and Cramer helped organize the press conference along with several other environmental organizations.

"Sierra Clubbers really showed up in force for the press conference, packing the room to show their support for the EPA in Big Picture t-shirts," said Cramer (just take a look at the first photo of this post to see what she means!).

Our own Sierra Club chief climate counsel David Bookbinder spoke at the press conference, saying "It's clear, from the crowd of people who turned out today, and the thousands of people who have already submitted comments, that there is broad public support for strong action on global warming."

Photo 017
Left to right - Dr. Amanda Staudt (climate scientist for NWF), Dr. Cindy Parker (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health), Dr. Jim Barrett (Economist), Rabbi David Saperstein (Religious Action Center), and the Sierra Club's David Bookbinder all wait to speak at the mid-day press conference.

Later in the day, Hollywood showed up in Arlington when Keely and Pierce Brosnan came to the hearing to testify on why the EPA should take action on global warming. The Brosnans are great Sierra Club allies who regularly speak out on global warming and other environmental issues.

Brosnans
Our own Mary Anne Hitt (left, deputy director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign) and Glen Besa (right) stand with Keely and Pierce Brosnan.

Overall, everyone thought the hearing was a fantastic success and that the EPA got an important earful on why it's so important to act on global warming pollution. Major thanks and recognition go to Kresowik, Cramer and the many other Sierra Club staff and activists who worked so hard on getting such a great turnout to the hearing and in putting together the excellent press conference.

Photo 001
Cramer and Kresowik show off the Sierra Club Big Picture t-shirts.

Kresowik summed up the day's events very well: "It was an inspirational day, and reminded all of us who were lucky enough to be there how important this issue is and that we cannot wait to embrace the jobs and opportunities a clean energy future will bring."

We hope to have some video of the hearing and press conference available very soon - I will update the post as soon as we get those.

And if you're sad that you couldn't attend yesterday's Arlington hearing, or that you can't go to the other public hearing in Seattle on Thursday (sign up now!), you can still send the EPA your comments using our excellent Big Picture Campaign website. Do it now!

(If you're sad that you didn't get to meet and hang out with Keely and Pierce Brosnan, then you're like me - I had to leave before they arrived!)

Photos 1 and 4 courtesy of Javier Sierra, photo 6 courtesy of Allison Fisher, and the rest are by Heather Moyer.

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