By Kimberly Turner, Esq.
In August, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the Clean Power Plan, establishing new limits on the primary pollutant that causes climate change – carbon dioxide from power plants.
Coal, oil and natural gas burned in many power plants are responsible for nearly 40 percent of all carbon pollution in the United States, according to EPA. Under the Clean Power Plan, many power plants will be required to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide released into the air.
Most scientists warn that higher temperatures caused by climate change can lead to longer and hotter heat waves, worse air with more smog and ozone, and an earlier spring leading to longer allergy seasons.
People with asthma and allergies are particularly sensitive to air pollutants and irritants. In the last 30 years, asthma rates have more than doubled. Unhealthy air can trigger asthma flares and interfere with normal lung function.
Air pollution particles are easily transported long distances by wind, so even rural areas experience unhealthy air.
How does it work?
EPA is establishing carbon dioxide emission rates for power plants. Each state is required to come up with a specific plan to cut carbon pollution emissions.
Each state can meet its target for emission reductions in ways tailored for the energy needs of that state – for example, closing old coal plants, using more renewable sources of electricity such as wind turbines, solar farms or hydroelectricity, and increasing energy efficiency.
EPA estimates that by 2030 the Clean Power Plan will cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent based on 2005 levels.
What can I do?
• Tell your representatives in Congress to oppose any legislation that will block or weaken the Clean Power Plan or allow states to opt out of it. Visit AllergyAsthmaNetwork.com/Advocacy to learn more.
• Help your state get the job done! EPA requires states to engage with the public on ways to reduce carbon pollution emissions. Contact your state government and ask to participate in public meetings. Provide feedback so your voice is heard on behalf of people with allergy and asthma.
New Ozone Standards
On Oct. 1, EPA set new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, one of the most prevalent air pollutants in the United States and a health hazard for children, the elderly and people with asthma.
The new ozone standard – 70 parts per billion (pbb) of ozone in the air, down from 75 – will require stricter limits for emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the primary agents that produce ozone when mixed with sunlight. Emissions from power plants and motor vehicles are among man-made sources of ozone.
“Ozone is a potent lung irritant and exposure to elevated levels is especially dangerous for people with chronic lung diseases such as asthma,” says Tonya Winders, president and CEO of Allergy & Asthma Network. “The standard of 70 pbb is a step in the right direction; however it does not go far enough. The scientific evidence supports 60 pbb to be most protective of children’s health, especially those with asthma. We thank EPA for their hard work and look forward to continued air quality efforts.”
EPA will update its Air Quality Index – available at www.AirNow.gov – to reflect the new standards and ensure people are notified when air quality is unhealthy.
Kimberly Turner, Esq. is Director of Government Affairs for Allergy & Asthma Network.