PRO: Proposal will be worth cost to consumers

Sara  Sneath By Sara Sneath

June 8, 2014 at 1:08 a.m.

The Environmental Protection Agency's response to criticism about the costs associated with the proposal to make a 30 percent cut in energy emissions by 2030 has been firm: Americans are already paying a high cost for climate change.

The costs of climate change have come in the form of medical bills, insurance and natural disasters.

The agency estimates that for every dollar spent to meet the guidelines of the proposal, American families will reap up to $7 in health benefits.

"The steps that they are proposing will directly benefit people who live near and downwind of power plants. We know that when you clean up carbon pollution, it reduces some of the other pollutants that are recognized as harmful directly to people," said Janice Nolen, American Lung Association assistant vice president of national policy.

Cleaning up carbon pollution will directly clean up sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which are highly irritating to people who have asthma, Nolen said. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide also form particle pollution, which shortens life. Particle pollution not only causes asthma attacks but also heart attacks and has been found to cause lung cancer, she said.

By cutting carbon emissions, the U.S. will avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children and up to 490,000 missed work or school days - with the result of up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits, according to the EPA.

"By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids. We don't have to choose between a healthy economy and a healthy environment - our action will sharpen America's competitive edge, spur innovation and create jobs," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a news release.

By setting the proposed 30 percent reduction in emissions against those of 2005, the EPA lessened the pressure on states to come into compliance with the rule. Emissions in 2013 were more than 10 percent below 2005 levels, which was one of the highest emissions years in the U.S., according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. (The U.S. is already a third of the way to the proposed goal.)

Coleto Creek cut its carbon emissions 8 percent from 2005 to 2013, Coleto Creek spokeswoman Danni Sabota said, adding the plant operated about 6 percent less in 2013 compared to 2005.

The EPA argues that the proposal is a means to reduce carbon emissions on each unit of energy produced. The states have the leeway to choose how they want to come into compliance within the energy sector.

"States can choose the right mix of generation using diverse fuels, energy efficiency and demand-side management to meet the goals and their own needs," according to an EPA news release.

"These are direct impacts that harm human health, and we have to recognize that cleaning up these power plants can help us to benefit people who live in Texas," Nolen said.

Con: Cost not worth benefit, doesn't allow enough flexibility for states



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