By: Sarah Willey
One of the most significant threats to our health and our livelihood is climate change. I was so disappointed when I read that 24 state officials, including my own attorney general Chris Koster in Missouri, wrote a letter requesting the repeal of the Clean Power Plan when President-elect Trump takes office in January.
That’s not to say I was surprised to see the letter. After watching my attorney general join with some of his co-signors to sue the EPA over the Clean Power Plan, this was not an unexpected move. But it was the wrong one.
This legislation is extremely important for our future. The Clean Power Plan will reduce carbon pollution from power plants through better emissions standards. Controlling emissions is critical in order to combat climate change, which is accelerating and endangers us all. The worsening weather disasters that climate change causes are a real concern. Stronger hurricanes, more frequent heat waves, and increasing drought are three examples of how climate change impacts our country. Not only are these disasters costly in terms of dollars (the EPA says climate and weather disasters in 2012 alone cost our country’s economy over $100 billion), but they cost our citizens their lives. It is already happening, and if we don’t take action (and our government doesn’t help us address it), it will get worse.
Climate change isn’t the only reason the Clean Power Plan matters. The decline in air quality from coal plant emissions has a very real impact on our health directly, too. I suffer from asthma, currently requiring three daily inhalers. My ability to breath is deeply impacted by this pollution. I am not alone. Asthma rates are increasing in the United States, and the CDC reports asthma is responsible for 10.5 million doctor visits, 1.8 million emergency room visits, and over 3,600 deaths annually. The Clean Power Plan is estimated to be able to prevent 140,000 or more asthma attacks in children, and save anywhere from 2,700 to 6,600 lives, by 2030. Environmental protections are public health protections.
Ultimately, the Clean Power Plan is also a boon for our nation’s economy and independence. Solar energy is increasingly affordable, and has already been declared cheaper than coal in some places such as the Philippines and India. Wind energy is also increasingly competitive with fossil fuels. As utilities make the switch to more renewable sources of energy, we benefit as our electricity bills lower. We could each be spending an average of $8 a month less by 2030 according to the EPA’s estimate.
The officials who signed this letters are mistaken to think that the Clean Power Plan represents an “extreme” overabundance of regulation. It represents a reasonable and necessary protection of Americans’ health and well-being, one that we can’t afford to let go. Our elected officials need to put our health over corporate interests, and everyone who signed this letter should be ashamed of themselves.
Sarah Willey works for Great Rivers Environmental Law Center in St. Louis, Missouri, a non-profit that provides legal resources to defend the environment and public health. She is an active volunteer with the Sierra Club, and currently serves as the chair of their Council of Club Leaders and Missouri Chapter.