Reading the Air:
Cutting Emissions on Power Plants is Needed Now
Closed schools, communities are being told to shelter in place and masks are back out. But this time, it is not for COVID, it is for a very different public health crisis: air pollution. At the forefront of everyone’s minds are the wildfires devastating Canada and sending toxic fumes down and across the United States.
It is evident that a changing climate will lead to a longer wildfire season and an uptick in the frequency of wildfires. The United States recently got a taste of this with the wildfire smoke impacting populations far from the source and upending economies through store closings, flight cancellations and health crises for at-risk populations.
On June 6th, 2023, when air pollutant levels were just beginning to get extreme, Colin McCarthy, an atmospheric science student who provides extreme weather updates, shared on Twitter that spending a day in New York City will have the equivalent health impacts as smoking 6 cigarettes a day. With the rise in frequency and intensity of weather events, we are seeing more and more carbon emissions leading to climate impacts – making the fires worse.
According to the EPA, the effects of climate change on air quality will greatly impact ground-level ozone, increase people’s exposure to allergens like pollen, and contribute to worsening air quality. It can also decrease visibility so that it is harder to see into the distance. Changes in the amount of outdoor air pollutants can also have an affect on indoor air quality.
We now have the chance to establish the first legal limits on heat-trapping pollution from power plants. This opportunity would accelerate and make more certain that the necessary ongoing emissions reductions happen within this sector. This is an essential step as large polluters have been allowed to use our air as a dumping ground with impunity for far too long.
This proposed rule would set emissions standards based on what is feasible on a plant-by-plant basis, rather than the broader system-wide approach taken by the Clean Power Plan proposed under the Obama administration. Nearly every coal plant in the U.S. is no longer economical to operate, given the incentives of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to use solar, wind, and batteries and other zero-emitting generation reduction options, as well as CCS technologies over the last decade.
The proposal is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by a total of roughly 800 million to 1 billion metric tons from 2028 through 2042 – which is over and above the reductions expected without the rule. Clean air is critical to our way of life and without it, lives and livelihoods will falter.
The EPA’s new proposed rulings on carbon emissions for power plants will provide American Businesses with a clear end-point for where the industry needs to get to, as well as pathways to modernize how we produce power in this country.
This is an extremely important proposal. Be sure to add your voice to ASBN’s comments now: https://www.asbnetwork.org/carbon-pollution-standards-sign