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Maine Emergency Room MD: "Don't Scrap Clean Power Plan"

A Maine E.R. doctor is among health experts who warn that Trump administration actions to roll back the Clean Power Plan will result in serious health problems. (Pixabay)
A Maine E.R. doctor is among health experts who warn that Trump administration actions to roll back the Clean Power Plan will result in serious health problems. (Pixabay)
October 12, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine -- On Tuesday, the Trump administration took steps to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the nation's first ever attempt to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt claimed the move would correct what he sees as executive overreach by the Obama administration. But Dr. Tony Owens, an emergency physician at Maine Medical Center, said rolling back protections would keep millions of Americans exposed to dangerous pollutants, and would derail the nation's efforts to slow climate change.

"It will adversely affect Maine people's health; more sick people, more fatalities, more days out of work,” Owens said. "There's nothing good about it, you know. We're paying the price for this so-called 'cheap' electricity."

Pruitt has downplayed health concerns and emphasized new calculations on the costs of complying with the plan.

The Clean Power Plan aimed to reduce carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. Owens was among the Mainers who traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify in favor of the plan.

Dr. Elena Rios, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Medical Association, said the government's number-one responsibility from a public health perspective is to help all people. She said she worries that rolling back pollution standards will disproportionately affect poor families and communities of color living in the shadows of coal-fired smokestacks.

"Decreasing the carbon content in our air quality in major cities, or in areas and neighborhoods that are around these power plants, there would be direct impact on the health of the community,” Rios said.

Owens added that Maine is already seeing a wide range of health effects due to a warming climate.

"Tick-borne illnesses are skyrocketing - outbreaks of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, mosquito illnesses,” he said. "There are other health effects, but far and away, the most concerning thing is this pollution/carbon dioxide/ozone link. "

Tuesday's order will be open to public comment. Previously, over 8 million people sent comments in support of the plan, setting a federal record.

Environmental groups and some states are expected to mount a legal challenge to keep the plan in place. Owens said Maine is already in compliance with its Clean Power Plan targets, which proves the goals can be achieved.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME