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$24.8 Billion in Profits and You Can’t Afford Clean Air?

Today the US House of Representatives debates the proposed TRAIN Act which attempts to bar the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from issuing regulations to reduce air pollution from power plants across state lines and curbing mercury and other toxic emissions.  Twenty seven east coast states, including NC, would be affected by the Cross-State Air Pollution rule; the mercury rule would affect many industries across the country. Without these rules, our health, the economy and the future of clean energy take a giant step backward.

These rules, which were finalized earlier this year, are life-savers for Americans suffering from heart disease, asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases. If the long overdue rules are blocked for just one year, here’s what can happen:

Up to 25,000 lives lost

© Les Stone, Greenpeace

More than 11,000 heart attacks

More than 120,000 asthma attacks

Over 12,000 more hospital and emergency room visits

Hundreds of thousands of more days of missed work or school.

An asthma attack is defined as a sudden tightening of the muscles around airways because muscles are swollen or inflamed causing difficulty in breathing. For those with asthma or those with a family member or friend with asthma, you know how frightening this can be – especially when 11 people die every day in our country from asthma attacks.

And it is no surprise that according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, asthma prevalence and death are highly correlated with poverty, urban air quality, indoor allergens, lack of patient education and inadequate medical care.

The Congressional debate on air pollution comes on the heels of the President’s recent decision to delay regulations to reduce smog – a rule which would have prevented 12,000 premature deaths, 5,300 heart attacks and tens of thousands of asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses each year.

The reasoning is as old as the hills – as the saying goes. More regulation costs too much at a time when the economic outlook for the country is quite bleak. It deters investment, puts the brakes on economic recovery. But looking at the facts, this argument holds no water.

Top 10 utilities combined profits in 2010 – $28.4 billion.

Return on investments for the smog rule that the President delayed – $37 billion in value for a cost of about $20 billion by 2020.

Costs associated with implementing current Clean Air Act standards in 2010 – $1.3 trillion in public and environmental health benefit at a cost of $50 billion.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, that’s more than 9% of the GDP at a cost of .4% of the GDP – a 26 to1 benefits to costs ratio.

So the President, his advisers and the US House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his allies are just plain wrong. Clean air saves lives. Clean air is cost effective.

 

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