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Improving Air Quality Means Granite State Health Benefits

Continued improvement for Granite State air quality is the prediction from health advocates as the EPA's Clean Power Plan puts new caps in place for pollution from coal-fired power plants. Credit: Staplegunther/Wikimedia Commons.
Continued improvement for Granite State air quality is the prediction from health advocates as the EPA's Clean Power Plan puts new caps in place for pollution from coal-fired power plants. Credit: Staplegunther/Wikimedia Commons.
August 10, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. – The air is often dangerous to breathe for 44 percent of Americans, according to a new report – and for Granite Staters who live in what's known as the tailpipe of the nation, the Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan should bring major improvements.

Michael Seilback, vice president of public policy for the American Lung Association of the Northeast, says the new 32 percent cap on carbon emissions from power plants is expected to mean shutdowns of some of the oldest and dirtiest plants in the Midwest.

And since that pollution migrates on air currents to New Hampshire, the changes should mean improvements in local air quality, which scored better grades in this year's report.

"They're not as bad as they once were,” he states. “Still, several counties in New Hampshire are receiving 'C' grades. And by implementing the Clean Power Plan, we're drastically going to reduce the amount of pollution that people in New Hampshire are breathing every day."

The American Lung Association compiles the annual State of the Air report and says nationwide, the Clean Power Plan is expected to have the greatest impact on economically disadvantaged communities that often are located near power plants.

Only a handful of coal-fired plants remain in operation in New England.

But the Clean Power Plan is getting sharp criticism, including from the National Black Chamber of Commerce. It says the pollution standards will be "especially severe" for African Americans and Hispanics, destroying jobs and increasing the cost of electricity and natural gas.

Janice Nolen, the American Lung Association’s assistant vice president of national policy, counters that the Clean Power Plan was designed to address those very concerns.

"Under the plan as it's in place now, the requirements would be that we have to make sure that we're not harming lower-income neighborhoods, which means that for the first time, they may actually get more cleanup than they would otherwise," she points out.

Seilbeck adds low-income communities and vulnerable populations should benefit from reduced medical costs as the plan improves overall air quality in New England.

"The Clean Power Plan is going to reduce pollution from power plants by close to 90 percent, and that's going to mean – for the elderly, for youth, and certainly for people that have heart and lung issues – it's going to mean less trips to the hospital," he stresses.

The State of the Air report says the Clean Power Plan should mean better health for more than 750,000 New Hampshire residents.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH