PI Original Ellyn Fortino Tuesday July 29th, 2014, 1:43pm

EPA Holds 'Clean Power' Hearings; Poll Finds Climate Change To Be A Hot Topic For Minority Voters

A new poll shows that minority voters in key battleground states view climate change as a "high-profile issue" and will be more likely to back candidates who support efforts to combat the problem. Progress Illinois takes a closer look at the implications of the the poll's findings as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency holds public hearings in four cities this week on its proposed plan to cut carbon emissions.

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) holds public hearings in four cities this week on its proposed plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants, a new poll shows minority voters in key battleground states view climate change as a "high-profile issue" and will be more likely to back candidates who support efforts to combat the problem.

Green for All, an Oakland, California-based national advocacy organization focused on building an inclusive green economy, commissioned the new poll released Monday, which examined climate-change attitudes among 400 African-American, 400 Latino and 100 Asian likely voters from Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Virginia. Likely minority voters from Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area were also surveyed for the telephone poll, conducted by the Washington, D.C.-based polling firm Brilliant Corners Research & Strategies from June 30 through July 15.

"By an overwhelming margin (70 percent to 20 percent), minority voters are more likely to support a candidate willing to expand resources to tackle the issue [of climate change] and grow new industries over a candidate who rejects these efforts based on the argument that it will cost millions of jobs and hurt our economy," Green for All's report on the poll reads.

Green for All's Executive Director Nikki Silvestri said the survey of minority voters in battleground states shows "vulnerable communities will actually change their votes depending on what candidates say" regarding climate change.

"That message that climate change is going to cost our economy actually hurts candidates," she told reporters on a conference call Monday.  

Fifty percent of those polled believe the EPA's proposed carbon pollution regulations for power plants might result in higher energy costs and job losses in the short term. But 76 percent of minority voters think the new carbon emission standards will ultimately "spur research and innovations that will not only keep costs down but, more importantly, create new industries with good-paying jobs," according to the poll report.

Among other key findings, three-quarters of minority voters said they are closely tracking new information about climate change. Also, 68 percent of those polled believe climate change "is an issue we need to be worried about right now, not something we can put off into the future," the report reads. And 62 percent of survey respondents think not enough resources are currently being used to tackle climate change. 

The report also detailed the top reasons why minority voters find the proposed federal regulations for power plant carbon emissions to be of importance.

"The primary reason for supporting the new standards was to 'fulfill our moral duty to leave our children a habitable planet' (33 percent); followed by 'new clean-energy industries and efficiency will create good-paying jobs that can't be outsourced' (23 percent); and reduce health related costs linked to carbon pollution' (18 percent)," the report reads.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. 

Silvestri noted that Green for All did not have the poll conducted in search of "new, radical information."

"It was to make sure that we had accurate information in 2014, considering this is an unprecedented year in climate solutions, to say that our communities do support this," she said. "We didn't want to be guessing ... And now we have real data to support everything the EPA is doing, everything the government is doing, to make sure that climate solutions work for everyone."

The EPA is holding hearings this week in Denver, Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. on its proposed Clean Power Plan to curb carbon pollution from existing U.S. power plants. The proposal looks to slash carbon emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

Additionally, the agency's plan seeks to limit "other air pollutants, which by themselves cause thousands of premature deaths, by 25 percent," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

Brune said the Sierra Club is expecting "busloads of our members to join each hearing from each of the surrounding areas." Many Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) representatives also plan to attend the hearings, said NRDC President Frances Beinecke.

She said the NRDC backs the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan, but believes it "could be more ambitious."

"During the comment period, NRDC will be supplying detailed comments on how that could be achieved, but our focus at these hearings is going to be that this is an absolutely essential step forward and we support EPA in taking this step," Beinecke said. "We believe that there'll be tremendous support shown across the country at these hearings and in the comments that are going to be delivered because … poll after poll is indicating that there's huge support for getting going on climate action."

"We think the support will be strong and the actions that are laid out and the flexibility that the plan provides for the states make this a cost-effective and critical step forward to protect health and future generations," she added. 

Environmentalists and public health advocates will not be the only ones making noise at the hearings.

The Georgia chapter of the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity, a conservative political advocacy group, will be rallying outside of the Tuesday EPA hearing in Atlanta in opposition of the agency's "proposed carbon dioxide reduction rules and to educate media and rally goers about the harmful impacts on job creation and energy costs," according to a news release. The Pennsylvania chapter of the group has scheduled a similar rally and press conference for Thursday outside of the Pittsburg EPA hearing site. 

Meanwhile, Silvestri said Green for All representatives plan to highlight the new poll findings in their comments to the EPA. 

"It's clear a lot of the messages against the carbon rule are being targeted to minorities and people of low income, in saying that this is going to increase your own prices for energy [and] this is going to lose jobs for you … which is why our comments are going to be more geared toward the fact that right now our communities aren't buying that," she said. "We need to spend this year making sure our communities don't buy that, and that they'll know this will actually spur innovation and jobs and … that the extreme weather events and the things they are linking to climate change are real. Our comments are going to be protecting those who get it now from being led astray by misinformation." 

The public can submit comments to the EPA on its proposed Clean Power Plan through October 16

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