The cleanup of power plants is long overdue. Power plant pollution causes tens of thousands of premature deaths each year. These plants are major contributors to particulate pollution and ozone in the East and Midwest. The American Lung Association welcomes today’s proposal by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce power plant pollution across 31 states. The Code Red and Orange days we’ve experienced in the Eastern U.S. this week underscore the need for healthier air. Today’s action is an important step towards safe and healthy air across the region.
The EPA’s Transport Rule will require the installation of modern pollution control technology on power plants across most of the eastern half of the United States. That technology will make sizable cuts in two dangerous pollutants: sulfur dioxide pollution levels by 71 percent and nitrogen oxide pollution by 52 percent. Power plants spew so much of these pollutants that they must be cleaned up if our nation hopes to reduce the burden of ozone smog and particle pollution in the East and Midwest. In 2005, the EPA started to clean up these plants, enacting the Clean Air Interstate Rule. The courts struck that Rule down in 2008, so the EPA had the opportunity to improve on it. The American Lung Association is pleased that today’s proposal ensures greater pollution reductions than the earlier measure. The additional pollution reductions provided by this rule will help protect the public health.
Cleaning up power plants is critically important because particle pollution and ozone smog cause coughing and wheezing, trigger asthma attacks, send people to the emergency room and cause heart attacks and strokes, as well as premature death. Millions of people are at risk from this pollution, including children, seniors, those with chronic lung diseases like asthma and COPD, and those with cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Today’s proposal is an important step to protect public health, and will save between 14,000 and 36,000 lives a year. Nonetheless, more work is needed to truly protect the public.
The American Lung Association is encouraged that today’s proposal creates a framework for additional pollution controls that can be implemented to address more protective air quality standards. The national standard for ozone is currently under review and the EPA is expected to announce a new standard by the end of August. The American Lung Association, along with other major public health and medical organizations, has called for an ozone standard of 60 parts per billion, the most protective level under consideration by the EPA. When the EPA sets the new standard, this regional power plant regulatory framework must be strengthened to provide further pollution reductions to help the states in the East and Midwest meet the new standard.
The American Lung Association will file detailed comments on the transport rule to recommend ways to strengthen the health benefits and ensure the pollution reductions are implemented as quickly as possible.