Washington, D.C. — In the wake of this week’s historic presidential victory, the Center for American Progress released “Administration Can Take Five Actions to Protect Us from Pollution Now,” an analysis that outlines the five major actions President Barack Obama’s administration can take before the start of his second term to protect our nation’s public health from the ravages of pollution.
The proposed Environmental Protection Agency air pollution rules can produce net economic benefits of $70 billion to $187 billion dollars a year through the reduction of mercury and air toxins in power plants, industrial boilers, incinerators, and cement kilns. These economic benefits include lower healthcare costs due to the 12,540 hospitalizations and 199,000 asthma aggravation cases that would be avoided annually. Children and seniors are most vulnerable to respiratory infections due to ozone, and long-term exposure to soot can cause premature death, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, infant mortality, and low birth weight.
The CAP analysis lists five major and essential EPA rules to protect public health that the administration should finalize immediately:
- Reduce carbon pollution from new power plants, a measure which was supported by nearly 3 million comments sent to the Department of Energy in favor of the rule for both new and existing power plants
- Reduce hazardous pollution from industrial boilers—a rule which has been delayed since 2003. EPA estimates that Americans would receive $12 to $30 in health benefits for every dollar spent to reduce these pollutants
- Reduce smog pollution from cars, light trucks, and gasoline. The National Association of Clean Air Agencies estimates that anticipated reductions of sulfur in gasoline would be the equivalent of removing 33 million light cars and trucks off the road
- Modernize protection from soot. This new rule would improve public health and visibility by swiftly limiting short-term soot exposure
- Improve clean air quality standards for cement manufacturing—one of the largest industrial sources of mercury pollution in our nation. The EPA estimates that the rule would eliminate 92 percent of the mercury and fine-particulate soot emissions from cement kilns.
While many of these vital proposed health safeguards have been put in administrative limbo, finalizing these rules would clear the regulatory slate and enable the administration to focus on a climate-change and pollution-reduction agenda beginning in January. Reducing carbon pollution from existing power plants and strengthening ozone smog health standards to provide protection for children and seniors can be a major legacy of President Obama’s second term.
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