The Environmental Protection Agency set new limits on air pollutants coming from coal-burning power plants to help reduce levels of toxic emissions that affect millions of people, especially seniors, children and those with chronic lung diseases.
EPA’s transport rule will place stricter limits on sulfur, nitrogen and toxic emissions that travel across state lines. According to EPA, today’s air quality improvement ruling could save between 14,000 and 36,000 lives every year from averted heart attacks, strokes and respiratory illnesses. Regulations will be enforced at coal-fired power plants in 28 states and the District of Columbia.
EPA’s new rule will require nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emission reductions in 2012, with further emission reductions in 2014. There are documented adverse short- and long-term health effects of exposure to these air pollutants emitted by burning coal.
“Today’s ruling is an important and long overdue step to protect the health of Americans and clean up our environment. It’s a huge win-win,” said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “We praise EPA for its continued efforts to help create stronger, healthier and more productive communities for ourselves and our families.”
The emission reductions will lead to significant annual health benefits, according to EPA. By 2014, this rule will protect public health by preventing:
• 26,000 hospital and emergency room visits,
• 1.9 million missed work or school days,
• 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and
• 440,000 upper and lower respiratory symptoms.
Air quality improvements also will lead to increased visibility in national and state parks, and increased protection for sensitive ecosystems, coastal waters and estuaries, and sugar maple forests.