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Trump’s coal pollution plan could cause 1,400 deaths annually: EPA

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Coal
Exhaust
rises from the East Bend Generating Station, a coal-fired power
plant owned and operated by Duke Energy, along the Ohio River in
Union, Kentucky, U.S., September 14, 2017.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

  • President Donald
    Trump
    ‘s administration has released its new plan
    to regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired
    power plants.
  • The Affordable Clean Energy rule would impose looser
    regulations than former President Barack Obama’s
    proposed Clean
    Power Plan
    .
  • According to an EPA analysis, Trump’s new rules could
    cause up to 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030.

President Donald Trump’s administration on Tuesday released its
new plan to regulate carbon emissions from coal-fired power
plants. 

Trump’s Affordable
Clean Energy
plan includes far less stringent regulations
than the Clean Power Plan, which former President Barack Obama’s
administration proposed in 2015. The new rules would allow states
to write their own regulations for coal-fired power plants,
whereas the Obama-era plan (which never went into effect) sought
to shift electricity production to less carbon-intensive sources.

Because Trump’s plan would likely allow more pollution from power
plants to enter the air and atmosphere, the policy could cause up
to 1,400 premature deaths annually by the year 2030, according to
an analysis from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The EPA’s projections of pollution deaths

In the EPA’s
technical analysis
of the new rules, the agency lays our four
scenarios. The first scenario is business as usual, without the
Clean Power Plan or any other new regulations. The other
three compare different models of Trump’s replacement policy
to a hypothetical scenario in which Obama’s Clean Power Plan were
to go into effect.

In the scenario the EPA deems most likely, Trump’s new rules are
projected to cause between 470 and 1,400 more adults to die
prematurely each year by 2030 because of the health effects of
pollution. The scenario with the most damaging health impacts
would be no Clean Power Plan and no replacement, which could lead
to up to 1,600 more premature deaths annually.


Donald Trump with coal miners
Donald Trump meets with
coal miners.

Getty
Images


The EPA’s calculations are based on a Harvard study
that linked air pollution to premature death from a range of
causes.  

The projected rise in premature deaths would be caused by
increased concentrations of a set of airborne particles called
PM2.5 (an abbreviation for particulate matter with a
diameter below 2.5 microns
). This pollution is emitted
during the combustion of fossil fuels and has been linked to
various health consequences, including heart and lung disease.
PM2.5 is also known to aggravate symptoms in asthma sufferers and
cause respiratory damage, according to the
World Health Organization
.


Ozone
, another dangerous particle, could kill an additional
20 to 98 people per year, according to the EPA’s most likely
scenario.

Increased concentrations of these two types of pollution combined
could lead to around 48,000 more cases of exacerbated asthma than
would have been seen under the Clean Power Plan, according to the
EPA’s analysis. And because of the health impacts of ozone,
Trump’s plan would also cause between 7,700 and 48,000 more days
of missed school annually for children by 2030.

Pollution-related illnesses led to 9 million premature deaths
worldwide in 2015, according to a report released
by 
The
Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health
in October. Air
pollution is
by far the worst culprit
, according to the report, and it’s
mostly caused by the combustion of fossil fuels like coal. 

Coal power is on the decline

The entire Obama administration plan was centered around
doing away with coal,” Andrew Wheeler, the
acting administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency,
told
The Wall Street Journal
on Tuesday. 

However, even without the Clean Power Plan, the amount of
electricity produced by coal in the US has declined in recent
years, as the cost of natural gas and renewable energy sources
has dropped.

According to
a June report
from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, close to 40%
of US coal plants have already been either shut down or marked
for closure. A recent report from the investment bank Lazard
showed that the cost of producing one megawatt-hour of
electricity from coal is more than double the cost of
solar. 

Trump’s new plan would only slow the decline of coal’s
share of electricity production, according to the EPA’s
analysis.

“Wind, solar, and other clean energy sources are beating
coal in the marketplace, which is benefiting both public health
and the economy,” former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
said in a statement. “That will continue to happen even if the
EPA keeps spitting in the wind. Washington ought to lead, follow,
or get out of the way.”

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