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Sebelius: Clean Power Plan will reduce asthma, lung cancer, birth problems

Air pollution from fossil fuel powered plants such as this one will be reduced if the EPA’s proposed regulations are adopted.
Air pollution from fossil fuel powered plants such as this one will be reduced if the EPA’s proposed regulations are adopted.
Photo from the Library of Congress

The EPA Clean Power Plan will address the growing public health problems created by carbon pollution and global warming, Health and Humans Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says in a Monday press statement. The proposed EPA regulations seek to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions up to 30 percent by 2030. It requires each state develop a plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing oil, gas and coal power plants. The Plan is part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan of June 2013.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, power plants are a secondary source of particle pollution — dirt, dust, soot and smoke in the air. These particles create a host of public health problems including increased emergency room visits for breathing difficulties, exacerbation of asthma symptoms, birth problems, lung cancer and early death. Children, because they are still developing, are most at risk for life-long health issues from exposure to pollutants created by coal, oil and gas fired power plants.

“With more than 25 million Americans, including more than 6.5 million children, living with asthma, and countless others suffering from the health effects of carbon pollution and climate change, we must act.” — HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, in a June 2 press release, tells the story of 10-year-old Parker Frey. Frey is “…a tough, active kid —and stellar hockey player.” However, Frey suffers from severe asthma, and his mother says that some days the air is too dangerous for her to allow Parker outdoors. McCarthy sees the Plan as one measure the EPA is taking to protect the health of children such as Frey. While the EPA regulates mercury, sulfur and arsenic, there is no limit to the amount of carbon industries may put in the air. The proposed regulations address this issue.

Mike Duncan. CEO of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and a former Republican National Committee Chairman, disputes the claim that carbon presents a serious public health threat. Additionally, Duncan says the new regulations will double electricity prices, which would be a major hardship for low- and middle-income families. He also believes that the regulations would shut down a third of the nation’s power plants, creating an energy crisis at times of high demand.

The EPA, in its proposal, estimates a slight increase in electricity prices as a result of the regulations, but the savings in health costs would more than compensate for these higher energy prices. In order to meet the new standards, power plants would have to use innovative technologies, increased efficiency and clean energy alternatives, which the EPA says will expand energy sources and create new jobs. The public is invited to comment on the proposed regulations during a 120-day comment period.

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