A new rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. power generation sector could increase air pollution, with up to 1,400 extra deaths per year due to changes in coal-fired power plants.
This fact was stated in a report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the impacts of replacing the Clean Power Plan – a 2015 rule to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 32 per cent by 2030 – with the Affordable Clean Energy Rule.
The U.S government gave states the right to set targets on reducing emissions and encouraged the closure of coal-fired power plants while encouraging existing coal-fired power plants to increase their efficiency as the “best system of emission reduction”.
It means coal-fired power plants can longer if they can increase their efficiency, with no onus on them to address pollutants emitted to the air other than carbon dioxide.
The EPA report says this scenario is “dangerous.”
“As compared to the standards of performance that it replaces … implementing the proposed rule is expected to … increase the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health,” the report said.
It predicts worse human health outcomes through air pollution if this laissez faire (liberal) policy is allowed to continue.
“Air pollution is known as ‘the invisible killer’ and the EPA’s analysis adds further weight to this deserved reputation,” said Helena Molin Valdes, Head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition.
“Every year, indoor and outdoor air pollution causes health implications and premature death for millions of people across the globe.”
The EPA’s analysis came a few days before a new study, which showed that outdoor PM2.5 air pollution lowers life expectancy worldwide.
“The fact that fine particle air pollution is a major global killer is already well known,” said lead author Joshua Apte, an assistant professor in the Cockrell School’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering.
“What we found is that air pollution has a very large effect on survival – on average about a year globally.”