How to make climate regulations matter to moms

June 2, 2014

How can make climate regulations relevant to soccer moms in the southeast? Well, you can start by talking about asthma.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s long-awaited proposal to regulate carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants was released today* to high praise from businesses and investors, state leaders, faith leaders and at least one electric power company. Seventy-percent of Americans support the idea of limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, according to a brand-new poll, and 63% said they’re even willing to pay for it through higher energy bills.

But will that be enough to counter well-funded attacks by fossil-fuel companies and their PR firms, seeking to paint the EPA as a “radical organization” that seeks to double Grandma’s electricity bill?

Smart framing will help: the EPA’s press release wisely touts not only the climate benefits of the proposed regulations, but the health benefits too. “By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, citing “co-benefits” including slashing particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent, and avoiding up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days.

This spring, Resource Media helped boost that message by crafting (with our partners at the Public Health Caucus of the Southeast Climate & Energy Network) a set of messages aimed squarely at doctors, nurses and other health professionals interested in speaking out in support of the new EPA proposal (particularly in the Southeast, a region traditionally beholden to coal mining and home to 82 coal-fired power plants).

The Climate & Health Caucus Toolkit, made available to all via Dropbox, also includes time-tested tips on answering tough questions, interacting with the media, meeting with policymakers, and sample op-eds, editorial board memos, and sign-on letters. Taken together, it’s one-stop-shopping for folks looking to promote the substantial health benefits of reducing power plant pollution.

While focused on the Southeast, much of the Toolkit’s advice is universal, and it’s already being shared widely outside the region. “The public health toolkit is fantastic.  I’m going to share it with others!” we heard recently from an advocate in Chicago.

And it won’t be long before it’s pressed into use. The first of four public hearings on the proposed rule is slated for July 29 in Atlanta, Georgia, and our Southeast partners are already working to ensure the room is filled with powerful voices to argue in favor of cutting carbon pollution. We’re look forward to seeing some doctors and nurses in their midst, armed with smart messaging!

Cat Lazaroff

*The EPA has since taken down the proposal. Read a version of it here.