Social Justice and Climate Change

The Environmental Protection Agency is in West Virginia to conduct a public hearing on the repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The rule, established by the Obama Administration, set forth guidelines for states to follow that limited carbon dioxide emissions allowed from power plants.

The guideline was originally issued in October 2015 with an intended goal to reduce carbon emissions by 32% by 2030. It primarily focuses on coal-burning electrical plants due to the high volume carbon emissions produced.

Immediately after its implementation, the Clean Power Plan was both lauded and criticized. There were those that said it was a necessary first step in successfully reducing the United States’ carbon emissions, setting us on the path to a clean energy future, and those that said it was a blight on economic progress and would unfairly hurt the coal industry.

Our focus on the clean power plan is centered on the civil rights and civil liberties implications of climate change. During times of natural disaster, civil liberties are frequently curtailed. These impacts are disproportionately thrust upon the poorest and most disenfranchised in society.

It’s undeniable that climate change is happening and that there is a direct correlation to the increasing number and severity of natural disasters experienced annually across the world. It’s also undeniable that human produced carbon emissions are a direct cause. It is then not difficult to imagine a scenario in which natural disasters, made more frequent and worse by climate change, create the conditions for serious civil liberties violations for many West Virginians.

It is morally and socially irresponsible to perpetuate any policy that would lead to increased violations of our civil liberties or that would require communities of color, indigenous people, people with disabilities and the poor to bear the brunt of the costs of such policy. We believe that repealing the Clean Power Plan would do all of those things.

ACLU of WV Policy Director Eli Baumwell is scheduled to speak against the repeal at the public hearing in Charleston. Read his testimony in full here.

The hearing will also be live streamed via the West Virginia State Legislature website. Listen to the hearing here.

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