MONDAY, June 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The Obama
administration announced plans Monday that would require the United
States to cut power plant emissions that many scientists blame for
global warming by 30 percent by 2030.
It's a move that would substantially improve the health of
millions of Americans, federal officials said.
The plan targets the biggest source of carbon pollution in the
country -- more than 600 coal-fired power plants, according to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Today climate change that is fueled by carbon pollution is supercharging risks not just to our health but to our communities, to our economy and to our way of life," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said during a news conference Monday morning.
"Currently, there are no limits on carbon pollution from power plants -- our nation's largest source. For the sake of our families' health and for our kids' future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate change," she said.
McCarthy said "rising temperatures bring more smog, more asthma
and longer allergy seasons," and added that "carbon pollution from
power plants comes packaged with dangerous pollutants, like
particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide. And they
put our children and our families at even more risk."
The proposal, which is already stirring opposition from
Republican lawmakers and some business groups, "will result in
lower medical bills, fewer trips to the emergency room, especially
for those kids who have asthma, our elderly and our infirmed,"
The 645-page proposal, scheduled to be ready by next year, is a
key piece of Obama's efforts to combat climate change. It also
seeks to give the United States more credibility with other
countries when negotiations on a new international treaty resume
next year, the
The proposal is probably Obama's last chance to substantially
reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that many scientists blame for
trapping heat in the atmosphere and warming the planet,
The New York Timesreported. The President failed to get
Congress to enact a broad climate change bill during his first
term. This time around, he's using his executive authority under
the 1970 Clean Air Act to issue the regulation, the newspaper
The American Lung Association called the President's decision a
major step toward improving the health of the nation.
Association President Harold Wimmer said, "Power plant pollution
makes people sick and cuts short lives."
According to Wimmer, the new rules would reduce the burden of
air pollution in America, prevent up to 4,000 premature deaths and
100,000 asthma attacks in the first year, and prevent up to 6,600
premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in 2030.
"Cleaning up carbon pollution will have an immediate, positive impact on public health -- particularly for those who suffer from chronic diseases like asthma, heart disease or diabetes. Steps to clean up carbon pollution can reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, both poisonous emissions from coal-fired power plants that are also major precursors to lethal ozone and particulate matter pollution," he said.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, air pollution is a leading environmental threat to
health. Health problems linked to air pollution include more
emergency room visits and hospital stays for breathing and heart
problems, worsening of asthma, low birth weight, decreased lung
growth in children, lung cancer and early deaths.
The EPA also said the new rule would cut electricity bills
roughly 8 percent by promoting energy efficiency and reducing
demand in the electricity system.
"We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment -- our action will sharpen America's competitive edge, spur innovation, and create jobs," McCarthy said.
The plan is already coming under fire by industry groups and
some lawmakers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the new rule
would "cost America's economy over $50 billion a year between now
Karen Harbert, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy (Institute), said,
"Our analysis shows that Americans will pay significantly more for
electricity, see slower economic growth and fewer jobs, and have
less disposable income, while a slight reduction in carbon
emissions will be overwhelmed by global increases."
The proposal has also been the target of criticism from
Republicans -- and even some Democrats -- engaged in tight
campaigns in energy-producing states, the
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, called the proposal a "dagger
in the heart of the American middle class." He said it would mean
higher costs, fewer jobs and a less reliable energy grid, the
The EPA said it would accept comments on the proposal for 120
days after it is published in Federal Register and will hold four
public hearings during the week of July 28. The hearings will be in
Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. The agency said it
would then finalize the standards next June, based on the schedule
established in the June 2013 Presidential Memorandum.
For more on air pollution, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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