Each time the US Environmental Protection Agency proposes a new regulation, it writes a cost-benefit analysis to go with it. When the Obama-era EPA developed the Clean Power Plan to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants by 32% by 2030, the cost-benefit analysis found it would prevent thousands of premature deaths each year, along with serious health complications.
The Clean Power Plan was calculated to prevent:
- 3,600 annual premature deaths from air-pollution exposure
- 1,700 annual heart attacks
- 90,000 annual asthma attacks
- 300,000 missed work and school days each year
“From these reductions alone, for every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan, American families will see up to $4 in health benefits,” EPA cost-benefit analysts wrote.
US president Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order today (March 28) that would begin the process of dismantling the rule. Leaving aside the consequences that would have on the global warming crisis, the decision will also reduce (or eliminate, depending on the revisions to the rule the Trump administration will propose) those life-saving benefits EPA scientists determined would come with the plan.
Trump’s latest executive order will instruct Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, to revisit and revise the Clean Power Plan, beginning the long and arduous rulemaking process needed to override much of its core mandates. Trump will also ask the Justice Department to stop defending the Clean Power Plan in court, where it has been tied up for more than a year after 28 states, along with fossil fuel industry groups, sued to block the rule as unconstitutional. (Scott Pruitt, as Oklahoma Attorney General, also sued the EPA to block the Clean Power Plan. Oklahoma is among the states suing over it now.) In short, the Clean Power Plan is poised to languish in legal purgatory and then get gutted, which will reduce or eliminate these health benefits.
The link between air pollution and premature death is widely accepted by the scientific community; for example, the World Health Organization determined air pollution was at fault for the premature deaths of one in every eight people who died in 2012. Public health in general suffers amid chronic air pollution, at all stages of life—studies have linked chronic air pollution exposure to early birth and low birth weight, cognitive delay in children and autism risk, increased incidence of suicide, and premature aging of the brain.