While Trump Touts Environmental Record, Health Organizations Make Plans to Sue

Allison Inserro

On the same day that President Donald Trump spoke about the environment and the economy, the American Lung Association (ALA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) said that they will sue the administration over its decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was passed under the Obama administration to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

“A strong economy is vital to maintain a healthy environment,” Trump said during a speech Monday; the speech highlighting environmental policies was largely seen as an effort to woo suburban women and millennials who might otherwise reject the administration’s rollback of environmental protections, The New York Times reported.

In a joint statement, the ALA and the APHA said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is abdicating “its legal duties and obligations to protect public health under the Clean Air Act, which is why we are challenging these actions.”

The administration recently finalized plans to replace the CPP with its Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) plan, which would give states more latitude in how to manage greenhouse emissions. The EPA has called the Obama administration’s CPP excessive and “overly prescriptive and burdensome.”

But according to the EPA’s own documents released last year, greenhouse gas emissions are known to cause climate change; the introduction to the chapter on 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 report predicts an excess of 1400 deaths a year from the change in a chapter called “Estimated Forgone Climate Benefits and Forgone Human Health Co-Benefits.” It notes that the “emissions include directly emitted fine particles sized 2.5 microns and smaller (PM2.5), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NOX), and mercury (Hg). SOand NOX are each a precursor to ambient PM2.5, and NOX emissions are also a precursor in the formation of ambient ground-level ozone.”

According to the EPA report, likely effects from respiratory illness will include nonfatal heart attacks, hospital admissions, emergency department (ED) visits for asthma, missed work days due to asthma, and missed school days due to asthma.

Numerous studies have linked pollution levels to increased ED visits and breathing problems. Air pollution is a known factor for respiratory diseases like asthma, pneumonia, and others. It has also been linked to lung infections, especially in small children.

The ALA and APHA said Monday that, “it is simply not lawful for EPA to use its legal authority in ways that will increase dangerous air pollutants and harm the health of Americans.”

“In addition to increasing the carbon dioxide pollution that fuels climate change, independent research from 2019 predicts that the ACE rule will result in some fossil fuel plants running more often and delaying their retirement, which would mean increased emissions of dangerous pollution as compared to the Clean Power Plan, and even as compared to no rule at all.”

During his speech Monday at the White House, Trump claimed that particulate matter in the United States is 6 times lower than in the rest of the world. The Sierra Club described the speech as “greenhouse gaslighting.”
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