Curbing coal plant emissions would save lots of lives. Not that this matters to EPA haters.
A new study
published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change
concludes that the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan proposed rules curbing CO2
emissions at electricity-generating plants will have a powerful side benefit: saving thousands of people from death as a result of respiratory ailments from emissions of soot, sulfur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and other pollutants. The rules are a major element in the Obama administration's Climate Action Plan to be finalized in mid-summer. They are under serious attack from industry, Republicans and a few Democrats in Congress, and some state governments.
Charles Driscoll, a professor of environmental systems engineering at Syracuse who is the lead author of the study, said: “The bottom line is, the more the standards promote cleaner fuels and energy efficiency, the greater the added health benefits.” Although the number of lives saved varies depending on the scenario, the authors concluded that the strongest version would save 3,500 lives annually. The study also said more than a thousand heart attacks would be prevented. The benefits would be immediate.
David Doniger, a lawyer who is the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate and Clean Air Program, writes:
We can likely save even more than 3,500 lives if the EPA strengthens the final Clean Power Plan rule, expected out this summer. NRDC's analysis shows that we can economically cut power plants' carbon pollution by 50 percent more than the EPA proposed, and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. "There's definitely room for additional benefits," says lead researcher Dr. Charles Driscoll, a professor in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Syracuse University. "You can push further."
The lives saved will come from cutting the hundreds of thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen that pour out of our nation's power-plant smokestacks along with carbon dioxide. These pollutants form dangerous soot and smog as they float downwind and cook in the atmosphere. These pollutants increase our risk of heart attacks, asthma attacks, respiratory diseases like emphysema, and even lung cancer.
The rules' biggest beneficiaries live in states such as Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio. The latter two are home to some of the loudest foes of the rules. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who represents coal-rich Kentucky, has urged states not to go along with the EPA's call for each of them to come up with its own plans to comply with the rules.
The study comes on the heels of a report that said the Clean Power Plan would generate up to 273,000 jobs. That is a five times more than the EPA had forecast, writes John H. Cushman Jr., "because the agency had looked only at the direct impact of its proposal while the new analysis calculated the ripple effect across the whole economy." That's also more than five times as many jobs as are expected to be lost in the coal and utility industries because of the rules.
Cleaner environment? Better health? More jobs? Not something the fossil fuelists and their marionettes in Congress have the slightest interest in.