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Health Organizations React to Rollback of Clean Power Plan Rules

Allison Inserro
Health organizations reacted with dismay at the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency to reverse the Clean Power Plan, which set limits on coal-fired power plants, and replace it with one called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which gives more authority to states in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A regulatory impact analysis prepared for the rule indicates 1400 excess deaths created per year by the rule.
Health organizations reacted with dismay at the decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reverse the Clean Power Plan, which set limits on coal-fired power plants, and replace it with one called the Affordable Clean Energy Rule, which gives more authority to states in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA called the Obama administration’s CPP excessive and “overly prescriptive and burdensome.”

GHG are a known factor in climate change, the effects of which are expected to increase health disparities as the earth continues to heat up. One recent study predicted as many as 1000 additional deaths a year in the eastern United States alone, due to elevated levels of air pollution driven by the increased use of fossil fuels.

In fact, a regulatory impact analysis prepared for the rule indicates the number of excess deaths created by the rule will be 1400 per year, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The introduction to the chapter having to do with human health begins, “As compared to the standards of performance that it replaces (i.e., the 2015 Clean Power Plan) and as documented in Chapter 3, implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and increase the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health.”


The American Public Health Association (APHA) also noted the fine print in a statement criticizing the change, saying the analysis “quantifies a host of other health effects, including exacerbated asthma, cardiovascular hospital admissions, upper and lower respiratory symptoms, lost work days, school absence days, and more.

"APHA strongly opposes this rule. It will weaken oversight by allowing states to set their own, less comprehensive regulations for power plants. It would also give states the option to opt out of regulations on power plant emissions.

"All children should be able to breathe clean air, and their ability to do so should not be determined by where they live. As pediatricians, we see how the changes in the environment impact our patients' health, and we are disappointed in the reversal of a policy that recognized this connection and protected child health,” said Colleen Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a statement. “Children deserve policies that ensure a safe environment and promote clean air."

She cited statistics from the World Health Organization that says more than 80% of the health burden resulting from climate change occurs in children younger than 5 years old, who have lungs that are still developing and are more susceptible to the effects of pollution.

Poor air quality caused by air pollution or the effects of climate changes, such as the current spate of wildfires, can trigger asthma flares.  Earlier this year, the CDC said asthma cost the nation an estimated $80 billion a year.

​​​​​​The EPA is taking public comment on the rule for 60 days.

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