Carbon Limits Needed

Coal-fired power plants should be required to curb emissions

By Kim Davitt and Lara Weir

When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the carbon pollution rules for coal-fired power plants last month, they mentioned asthma and how asthmatic children who live near power plants are impacted every day by pollutants. They said what we in public health already know — we will all suffer more if carbon pollution continues to warm temperatures and worsen air pollution.

The EPA’s carbon pollution rules are needed to prevent the worsening effects of climate change. Leading public health organizations, such as the American Medical Association, American Lung Association, and the American Public Health Association, support action to address climate change as one of the most serious threats to human health.

The recently published National Climate Assessment dedicated an entire chapter to identifying the health consequences linked to uncontrolled carbon pollution. We are already experiencing longer wildfire seasons, higher pollen counts and increased ozone levels, all of which make life for people with asthma and allergies unbearable. From increasing the incidence of heart attacks to driving up hospitalization rates, the manner in which carbon pollution compromises air quality has a wide and lethal reach.

Responsible for 40 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions, no other industry produces more carbon pollution than America’s coal-fired power plants.  There are currently no limits on how much carbon pollution these plants can pump into the air we breathe.

To reduce our carbon emissions, the EPA has proposed common sense limits for carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants. These limits will not only protect public health, but will ensure that power generation in our country becomes cleaner and more efficient. The EPA’s plan allows states ample flexibility to determine how to meet this healthy air goal.

Power plant pollution makes people sick and even kills. In addition to helping address climate change, the EPA’s proposed plan would immediately reduce the burden of air pollution in America by preventing up to 4,000 premature deaths and 100,000 asthma attacks in the first year these standards are in place. By 2030, these standards will prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks every year.

We urge the EPA to finalize its carbon cleanup standard within the next year as we continue to work with our health partners across the country to support setting a standard that best safeguards the public’s health. Anything less shortchanges our children, our health and our future.

Kim Davitt is with the American Lung Association of Montana and Lora Weir is with the Montana Public Health Association


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