EPA repeal of Clean Power Plan endangers health

Health Care Without Harm strongly opposes the Environmental Protection Agency’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan. If fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan would significantly reduce carbon emissions from the energy sector, while also substantially improving air quality and public health. We urge President Trump and Administrator Pruitt to protect the health of all Americans by adopting a strong national carbon standard and investing in clean, renewable energy.

Coal-fired power plants are a leading source of air pollution in the United States including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and mercury, which cause asthma and other respiratory illnesses, heart attack, stroke, and premature death, as well as harmful effects on the brain and nervous system. The Clean Power Plan is a life-saving measure that will prevent up to 90,000 asthma attacks, 1,700 heart attacks, and 3,600 premature deaths every year.

“Clean air is essential for a healthy, vibrant life,” said Laura Anderko, PhD, a registered nurse and professor at Georgetown University’s School of Nursing & Health Studies and a Health Care Without Harm board member. “The Clean Power Plan, with its reductions in air pollution, will improve the health of millions of Americans by reducing diseases such as asthma. The number of people with asthma in the United States is growing, especially in children, and is a leading contributor to health care costs. The Clean Power Plan provides a prescription for wellness for society and needs to remain intact.”

Power plants are also the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, accounting for nearly 40 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions. That’s more than every car, truck, and plane in America combined. Under the Clean Power Plan, the power sector will produce an estimated 30 percent less carbon dioxide in 2040 than in 2005, equivalent to taking 70 percent of American cars off the road. Without the plan, the reduction will only be 9 percent, which is far too small to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change.

Americans are already experiencing the health impacts of climate change including increases in heat-related illnesses, injuries and deaths from extreme weather events, respiratory illnesses, allergies, and infectious diseases such as Lyme disease. As carbon emissions continue unabated, the number and severity of these health impacts will increase. Our communities can no longer afford to wait for meaningful climate action on the part of the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA must act now to curb greenhouse gases if we are to avoid potentially irreversible climate change.

The health impacts of climate change and air pollution disproportionately affect our most vulnerable citizens: children, the elderly, the poor, and those with chronic illnesses. Health Care Without Harm calls on the EPA to regulate harmful greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants to protect vulnerable populations from the devastating impacts of climate change, while ensuring the right of all Americans to breathe clean air.