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PNS Daily Newscast - October 20, 2017 


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Health Experts: Clean Power Plan Needed for Public Health

Coal-fired power plants are the nation's top source of CO2 emissions. (Getty Images)
Coal-fired power plants are the nation's top source of CO2 emissions. (Getty Images)
October 13, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – This week 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.

EPA chief Scott Pruitt claims the move will correct what he sees as an executive overreach of authority, but Paul Billings, national senior vice president of the American Lung Association, says rolling back protections will keep millions of Americans exposed to dangerous pollutants and derail the nation's efforts to slow climate change.

"When EPA finalized the rule in 2015, they estimated the rule would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths a year and 90,000 asthma attacks in children, in addition to addressing the leading cause of climate change," he explains.

Pruitt has downplayed health concerns and emphasized new calculations on the costs of complying with the plan. It aimed to reduce carbon pollution by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The order will be open to public comment. Previously, more than eight-million people sent comments in support of the plan, setting a federal record.

Dr. Elena Rios with the National Hispanic Medical Association says the government's number-one responsibility from a public health perspective is to help all people. 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," she says.

Billings notes Wyoming residents - and people around the world - are already experiencing the effects of climate change, through more severe storms and wildfires and prolonged drought.

"We're also experiencing unhealthy air-pollution days, both ozone and particle pollution," he adds. "These high air-pollution days can lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath in healthy adults, but can cause asthma attacks and, sadly, even premature deaths."

Environmental groups and some states are expected to mount a legal challenge to keep the plan in place. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court told the EPA to regulate carbon as an air pollutant if emissions put public health at risk.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY