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Latinos should join the Obama administration's fight against global warming because they are among those it hurts the most, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said Friday in a Salt Lake City speech.
She especially sought Latino support for a proposed rule that McCarthy vowed to put in place later this year that would require a 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions from the nation's power plants by 2030.
Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Stewart, both R-Utah, have said that rule would increase power bills, kill jobs, hurt Utah coal and, as Hatch said, align with "extreme environmentalists." Stewart has called it "another example of more expensive, big-government regulation and less freedom for American businesses."
But McCarthy said it is needed, among other reasons, to protect Latinos and other groups with little political power from the effects of pollution.
That came during a speech at the national convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) at the Salt Palace.
"Forty percent of Latinos live within 30 miles of those very power plants," she said.
McCarthy added that their pollution contributes to such diseases as asthma, and that Latino children are almost twice as likely to be hospitalized for an asthma attack as white children. The EPA leader visited Puerto Rico last month, where she said 20 percent of children have asthma, more than twice the national rate.
So climate change "is not about polar bears, folks. It's about poor children, and your children's future," she said.
"Nobody gets to work if your kid is sick or you yourself cannot breathe. Let's be serious about tackling barriers that are stopping us from having jobs and preventing our kids from having the future that we want."
McCarthy added that pollution and climate change not only create more extreme hot and cold temperatures, but also more intense floods, fires and superstorms.
"When those disasters strike, guess who gets it most? It is always those who suffer the most who have the least," she said.
She vowed to put in place the new power plant rule, which has been proceeding through a yearlong comment period, despite political opposition.
"It will help reduce those asthma attacks. We will save thousands of lives," McCarthy said. "In the year 2030 alone, we are going to avoid 100,000 asthma attacks, 2,100 heart attacks from reduced soot and smog. Is it worth it? You bet it is."
She added to the Latino group, "At EPA, we need you to work with us because environmental pollution is another gap that we need to bridge. That's why President Obama has sent me here to ask for your help. Because today, there is no greater risk to our health, our economy or our way of life than global climate change."
She said critics are spreading predictions of doom about the new rule that are similar to attacks on past rules that did not prove true. "You are going to hear people say that this plan is going to hurt the poor, it's going to hurt minorities, it's going to raise energy prices," she said. "I will guarantee you they have said this every time we've done anything important, and every time they have been dead wrong."