In selling proposed limits on CO2, Obama administration emphasizes health improvement, not climate-change fight

By Melissa Landon and Al Cross
Kentucky Health News

As it announced its plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30 percent by 2030, the Obama administration emphasized the health angle, not climate change, which has been the driving force for the proposed regulations but is a more controversial cause than improving health.

“For the sake of our families’ health and our kids’ future, we have a moral obligation to act on climate,” EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said in her announcement.

Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson note in The Washington Post that when a climate bill stalled in the Senate four years ago, environmental and public health activists began pressuring Preisdent Obama to mandate carbon limits. Opponents to the measure include coal producers, some utilities and many Republicans, who say that the EPA has not proposed a plan that can work using current technology.

Under the new rules, states would use different strategies—such as energy efficiency, shifting from coal to natural gas, investing in renewable energy and making power plant upgrades—to achieve state-by-state goals. The reductions will be measured from 2005 levels; Environmental Protection Agency data reveal that power plants in the U.S. have already diminished carbon dioxide emissions by almost 13 percent since 2005, The Associated Press reports.

EPA estimates the rules will prevent as many as 6,600 premature deaths, 150,000 asthma attacks in children, up to 490,000 missed work and school days—saving $93 billion, Connie Hedegaard writes for EurActiv. The federal Centers for Disease Control reports that “exposure to particle pollution may cause worsening asthma symptoms, breathing problems, adverse birth outcomes, lung cancer and early death,” Healio reports.

The new rules are intended to assist Washington in achieving international obligations to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions deemed responsible for global warming, but Obama is focusing on the human health benefits to encourage Americans to adopt the movement, Jeff Mason wres for Reuters.

Although federal law has been employed to regulate other pollutants—such as soot, mercury and lead—this is the first time it has been applied to greenhouse gases, Fox News reports, quoting Obama: “We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur and arsenic that power plants put in our air and water. But they can dump unlimited amounts of carbon pollution into the air. It’s not smart, it’s not safe, and it doesn’t make sense.”

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