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Improving the Health of North Carolina Citizens, Economy and Wildlife

PHOTO: Supporters of limits on carbon pollution say aggressive new regulations from the EPA will have significant health benefits. Detractors say new limits on coal-fired power plants will slow the economy. Both sides weigh in at EPA hearings this week. Photo credit: Aaron Hartley.
PHOTO: Supporters of limits on carbon pollution say aggressive new regulations from the EPA will have significant health benefits. Detractors say new limits on coal-fired power plants will slow the economy. Both sides weigh in at EPA hearings this week. Photo credit: Aaron Hartley.
July 29, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. - The Environmental Protection agency (EPA) is taking comments this week at a series of public hearings on proposed rules to cut carbon pollution from power plants by nearly one-third from 2005 levels.

Supporters say the new regulations will save thousands of lives every year, while critics say carbon pollution limits will have a devastating economic impact.

Former EPA administrator Carol Browner says a healthy environment makes the economy healthier, and cites one study that found clean air rules saved the U.S. about $1.3 trillion in 2010.

"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."

The agency will hold public hearings on the proposed rules in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

In addition to improving the health of humans and the economy, supporters of greater carbon emissions regulations like Collin O'Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, say America's natural heritage has a vested interest in the outcome.

"When you think about the impacts on wildlife and the impact coal-fired power plants are having on our natural heritage, without actions like those the EPA is proposing we're putting our entire outdoor legacy at risk in this country," says O'Mara.

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 from coal-fired power plants and other carbon emitters every year. They are often children or the elderly, or residents from poorer communities downwind of smokestacks.

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 reducing carbon pollution and burning less coal are incidental, but Anderko says climate change will increase heat and the amount of dangerous ozone in the air which people breathe. Reducing those conditions will mean fewer respiratory problems for vulnerable people.

In addition to this week's EPA hearings, public comments can also be submitted via the EPA website through October 16th.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC