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Trump's coal emissions rollbacks will be bad for country's health, experts say

The Environmental Protection Agency will allow states to set their own emission standards for coal-fueled po...

Posted: Aug 22, 2018 8:52 AM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 8:52 AM

The Environmental Protection Agency will allow states to set their own emission standards for coal-fueled power plants under the newly proposed Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule. The plan, announced Tuesday, will "establish guidelines for states" to use when setting limits for greenhouse gases, the agency said in a statement. Critics say the decision will result in the release of much more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

By the EPA's own estimate, according to its a 289-page risk analysis, the additional pollution will result in up to 1,400 more premature deaths a year as of 2030. By the same year, the Obama administration's Clean Air Plan, which the new rule will replace, would have avoided 3,600 premature deaths due to pollution from coal-fired power plants.

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The President who talked about ending "the war on beautiful, clean coal" in this year's State of the Union address is replacing one of the Obama administration's signature climate change policies which the EPA referred to as "overly prescriptive and burdensome." The announcement comes on the heels of plans to weaken fuel economy targets and a revision of coal ash regulations.

Environmental experts and medical associations agree that such a move could be detrimental to America's health.

"With today's proposal, President Trump and Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler abandon much-needed public health safeguards against power plant pollution, placing the health of all Americans at risk, and especially those who are most vulnerable, including children, older adults, and people with asthma and heart disease," said Harold P. Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association, in a statement. "Today's proposal is a dangerous substitute for the Clean Power Plan and a careless giveaway to polluters that will delay meaningful progress in the future."

The Obama-era Clean Power Plan set a standard aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants 32% below 2005 levels by 2030. It made those emissions federally regulated for the first time

Power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, making up roughly a third of the domestic greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. The plants also create large amounts of fine particulate matter. The particles can get trapped deep in the lungs, causing breathing problems, heart disease and inflammation.

Exposure to air pollution is known to lead to a host of health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, bone loss, blood vessel damage, inflammation, cognitive issues and even death.

In 2016, the Supreme Court blocked the Obama regulation, but some plants had already started to work on reducing pollution.

With the repeal of the regulation, that progress is most likely going to stop, experts say, and that will hurt the country's health.

"There is no such thing as a safe level of pollution. It's that simple. Any pollution is bad. There is no doubt about this," said Dr. Andrea Baccarelli, chairman of the Environmental Health Sciences Department at Columbia University, adding that reducing the standard by any amount will have negative health consequences. "It's clear that relaxing the standards could cost lives."

The country has had a much better track record on regulating pollution in recent decades.

"Across the country, it's remarkable what we've been able to do in the last 40 years, and there's substantial evidence of improvement, which has a large impact on our health," said C. Arden Pope III, an air pollution expert and the Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Economics at Brigham Young University. "Rolling back these pollution standards puts our progress at risk. At worst, progress could be reversed."

Reducing pollution lowers people's risk for disease and even increases life expectancy, studies show. But lowering the standards by replacing the Clean Power Plan with something less stringent will bring an estimated 36,000 additional deaths and an estimated 630,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children over a decade, according to one analysis published in June in the medical journal JAMA. That, some experts said, is probably a conservative estimate.

"I'm a little skeptical about quantifying the health impact. We have models that can show range, but certainly this will have a negative health impact, no matter what the number," said Tom McGarity, an environmental law expert and the Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowed Chair in Administrative Law at the University of Texas. "There is no question a rollback will have a negative impact on mortality."

Some of these "big dirties," as the old polluting plants are called, lack the technology to reduce the amount of pollution they create according to McGarity. They will probably stick around a lot longer with the Trump administration's plans -- and will continue to contribute to climate change, increasing incidents of heat stroke, tropical disease and wildfires.

Natural gas and renewable energies like solar and wind have come down in price which has slowed the need for coal.

"But as the administration is doing everything in its power to keep the coal industry alive, we will still see a negative impact on health," McGarity said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 749097

Reported Deaths: 13745
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1030271775
Lake554211006
Allen41613691
St. Joseph36933564
Hamilton36505416
Elkhart29347459
Tippecanoe22849225
Vanderburgh22540400
Porter19313325
Johnson18386387
Hendricks17583317
Clark13190193
Madison13111344
Vigo12602253
LaPorte12385221
Monroe12152175
Delaware10947197
Howard10250225
Kosciusko9609119
Hancock8541144
Bartholomew8158157
Warrick7854156
Floyd7763180
Grant7227179
Wayne7154201
Boone6911103
Morgan6735141
Dubois6211118
Marshall6205116
Cass5989108
Henry5893108
Dearborn588878
Noble579786
Jackson508374
Shelby500697
Lawrence4727121
Gibson444093
Harrison440473
Clinton439855
DeKalb438585
Montgomery433890
Whitley405642
Huntington402181
Steuben398659
Miami392568
Jasper386254
Knox375690
Putnam371860
Wabash360583
Ripley346470
Adams344955
Jefferson335685
White329753
Daviess3028100
Wells294881
Decatur289992
Greene286385
Fayette284664
Posey273735
LaGrange272872
Scott269855
Clay265448
Randolph244683
Washington244534
Jennings235149
Spencer234131
Starke227558
Fountain218347
Sullivan213943
Owen210858
Fulton201542
Jay200832
Carroll193420
Orange188055
Perry186937
Rush175626
Vermillion173544
Franklin170135
Tipton165746
Parke148916
Pike137934
Blackford136032
Pulaski120047
Newton112636
Brown103943
Crawford102316
Benton100814
Martin91415
Warren83515
Switzerland8098
Union72810
Ohio57811
Unassigned0421

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1107047

Reported Deaths: 20091
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1284921459
Cuyahoga1155972204
Hamilton812991245
Montgomery524821040
Summit48339999
Lucas43303817
Butler38901603
Stark33286929
Lorain25641502
Warren24557303
Mahoning22330601
Lake21135385
Clermont20097252
Delaware18817135
Licking16645222
Fairfield16561204
Trumbull16522479
Medina15593270
Greene15252246
Clark14219306
Wood13280197
Portage13226214
Allen11905239
Richland11598211
Miami10835223
Wayne9116222
Columbiana9020230
Muskingum8889135
Pickaway8649122
Marion8635138
Tuscarawas8633247
Erie8052164
Ashtabula7137179
Hancock6996131
Ross6933161
Geauga6832150
Scioto6528104
Belmont6149174
Union583849
Lawrence5722102
Jefferson5669158
Huron5539122
Sandusky5436125
Darke5415129
Seneca5343126
Washington5308109
Athens523360
Auglaize501587
Mercer487385
Shelby476195
Knox4567112
Madison443765
Ashland435197
Putnam4333103
Fulton431871
Defiance431798
Crawford4033110
Brown401961
Logan387277
Preble3847103
Clinton378466
Ottawa372681
Highland359265
Williams347578
Champaign343658
Guernsey324153
Jackson317354
Perry297150
Morrow291340
Fayette285450
Hardin274865
Henry273267
Holmes2698101
Coshocton268359
Van Wert247264
Adams242856
Pike242735
Gallia240450
Wyandot234556
Hocking220162
Carroll196748
Paulding176342
Meigs148240
Monroe136144
Noble135839
Harrison113638
Morgan109624
Vinton85417
Unassigned03
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Tuesday is another mostly sunny and comfortable day with a small chance of a stray afternoon shower or sprinkle.
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