The national debate over regulating carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants reached its loudest and most contentious point on Thursday at a Downtown corner.
During a lunchtime break from testimony on proposed federal rules, hundreds of protesters fresh from a clean-air rally with Mayor Bill Peduto confronted thousands of union workers marching through what Allegheny County Labor Council President Jack Shea told them is a “union city.”
The collision of opinions outside the William S. Moorhead Federal Building was more boisterous and tense than what Environmental Protection Agency workers heard inside during 11 hours of testimony that will continue on Friday.
Inside, 200 people spoke of balancing job and energy concerns with stopping climate change.
On Liberty Avenue just after noon, shouts of “Move to China!” from union marchers in green camo shirts met responses of “No planet, no jobs!” from sign-waving environmentalists.
“It’s really emotional because I understand the fear they have (about their jobs),” said Gretchen Dahlkemper-Alfonso, 30, of Philadelphia, who is national field manager for the Moms Clean Air Force and daughter of former U.S. Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Erie.
“But all I want to do is protect my children,” she said. “It’s emotional for me. I’m no stranger of going to the emergency room with my daughter on days when the air quality is bad.”
The 45-minute confrontation ended peacefully despite the arrests of 14 union organizers, including United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts for obstruction.