INDIANAPOLIS – The Environmental Protection agency (EPA) is currently in the midst of a public comment period on new rules to cut carbon pollution from power plants by nearly one-third from 2005 levels. The issue is generating mixed opinions in Indiana, as the state receives 80 percent of its electricity from coal.
Critics say the proposed limits would have a devastating economic impact, but former EPA administrator Carol Browner disagrees with the viewpoint clean air regulations hurt business.
“We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment. The two go together,” Browner says. “The EPA proposal is a clear example of how you can find common sense, cost-effective ways to clean our air and protect the health of our communities.”
Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann recently co-sponsored a resolution with five other Lieutenant Governors pushing back against the EPA, calling for federal leaders to let states determine the appropriate mix of energy sources to meet electricity needs.
According to a Georgetown University nursing and health studies professor, people don’t often realize how costly air pollution is. Laura Anderko says thousands die from the health effects of air pollution every year. They often are children or the elderly, or from poorer communities located downwind of power plant smokestacks.
“People are sick, they can’t go to work. Kids are sick, they can’t go to school,” says Anderko. “All of these E.R. visits from asthma attacks and hospitalizations cost a great deal of money.”
Anderko says she often asks crowds how many of them know people with lung problems. “Every time I ask that question,” says Anderko, “people raise their hand to show they know at least one person, whether it’s a child, an elderly person, or themselves, that suffer from asthma or other cardio-respiratory diseases.”
Many of the health benefits projected from burning less coal and reducing carbon pollution are incidental, but Anderko says climate change will increase heat and the amount of dangerous ozone in the air people breathe. Reducing those conditions will mean fewer respiratory problems for vulnerable people.
The EPA will hold public hearings on the newly-proposed rules in four cities this week: Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Comments can also be submitted via the EPA website through October 16th.