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Climate Change: Urgent Need, Inadequate Response

Yesterday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formally released its proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule.  When implemented, this rule will essentially keep carbon emissions from power plants constant, by aiming for a trivial 25-year decrease of only 0.7 to 1.5 percent by 2030.  By contrast, the plan developed by EPA during the Obama Administration would reduce carbon pollution by 19 percent over the same time period. 

This shockingly inadequate plan to “regulate” carbon pollution fails to respond to the urgent crisis climate change poses to the nation.  The plan unveiled by the EPA appears more tailored to protect coal-fired power plants than to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from U.S power plants.

The EPA failure to adequately regulate carbon pollution will have real world consequences for human health, both today and for future generations. 

Not only does the plan result in only miniscule reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, it also continues the emissions of other major air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, mercury and other heavy metal emissions.

The proposal would reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions – precursors to dangerous particulate matter pollution – by 1 to 2 percent by 2030 from 2005 level. The Clean Power Plan would have reduced SOx emissions by 24 percent and NOx emissions by 22 percent. 

“The continued emissions of carbon pollution and dangerous co-pollutants like SOx and NOx will have real and measurable adverse health effects on the patients I treat,” says ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee Chair Mary B Rice, MD.  “Like many health professionals, I am extremely disappointed in the policy direction the US EPA has taken on climate change.”

Dr. Rice notes, “The signs of climate change are all around us.  This summer has seen historic wildfires in the western US, flooding on the East coast, and record temperatures in cities across the world.  The US EPA under its current leadership seems intent on ignoring the warning signs of climate change and instead putting the health of Americans and future generations at risk for the short-sighted benefit of influential coal industry executives.”