A couple of weeks ago, Senator Rob Portman decided to lead the charge in Congress to let power plants keep fouling our air with pollution that contributes to catastrophic climate change and leads to childhood asthma attacks. We owe it to our children and future generations to do what we can to fight climate change by limiting carbon pollution, and power plants are the biggest source of this pollution. We already limit the mercury, soot and smog-forming pollution from power plants. Its time to set the first-ever limits on carbon pollution as well, which is why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency put forward its Clean Power Plan.
Senator Portman wants to block these efforts to limit carbon polution from power plants. NRDC and Mom's Clean Air Force are determined not to allow members of Congress to get away with attacks on clean air and our children's health and future. That's why our two organizations teamed up on a television and digital ad campaign to expose Senator Portman for his attempts to dismantle the Clean Power Plan. (For more details on Portman's proposal and the Clean Power Plan, see my colleague David Doniger's post on this.)
The ad will run across the state for the next two weeks. For more details, see our press release.
By seeking to dismantle the first-ever limits on carbon from power plants and undermining the Clean Air Act, Senator Portman's Polluter Protection Proposal puts all Americans at risk. As my colleague Henry Henderson points out, Senator Portman should know better.
Here are some of the impacts and risks for Ohioans. Risks to asthmatic children and others with respiratory diseases:
- Carbon pollution standards for power plants could save 2,800 lives and prevent 760 hospitalizations in Ohio from 2020-2030, according to a 2014 analysis by the Harvard School of Public Health.
- Nearly two million Ohioans suffer from asthma and other chronic respiratory diseases according to the Harvard study.
- According to the American Lung Association, there were 270,000 asthmatic children in Ohio in 2013. A study by the National Association of School Nurses, Health Care Without Harm and the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments reported that over 25,000 asthmatic Ohio children had to be rushed to the emergency room in 2008.
- Climate change, driven by rising carbon pollution, leads to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone, or the pollutant smog, which aggravates asthma and other respiratory ailments. Nineteen counties surrounding or near Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus all have ozone levels that exceed EPA standards.
- Those who suffer from asthma and respiratory diseases are not the only ones at risk. The elderly, children and people in economically disadvantaged communities face particularly acute risks from air pollution.The health risks from air pollution are likely to be more serious for children who are already exposed to toxic chemicals, because they live or attend school near landfills, toxic waste sites, bus depots and rail yards, industrial plants, or similar facilities. Because of low-quality housing, overcrowding, and lack of air conditioning, children in low-income communities may also spend more time outdoors on smoggy summer days. (In the absence of air conditioning, indoor concentrations of ozone can approach 80 percent of outdoor levels.) In addition, children in low-income families are less likely to receive sufficient health care.
According to the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2014 report, Ohio has:
- 2.6 million children
- More than 1.7 million people who are at least 65 years old
- 1.8 million people of low income.
Note: NRDC and others have put out a lot of material in recent years on the connection between power plant pollution and public health. For a quick explanation about how carbon pollution affects health, check out this great video from American Lung Association and NRDC's page here.
Climate change also poses a range of other health risks:
- Extreme heat and heat waves lead to increased illness and death. Recent studies show that Ohio's four most populous cities could see heat-related deaths increase by 70 % to 120 % by the 2080s.
- Extreme rainfall events have become 49% more frequent in Ohio over the past 60 years. These heavy rains not only increase the risk of flooding, the second deadliest of all weather-related hazards in the nation, but can also lead to drinking water contamination and disease outbreaks.
- People in the Toledo area experience this firsthand in August 2014, when the public water system became unsafe thanks to an enormous algal bloom. The "do not drink" advisory from August 2 to August 4 affected some 500,000 citizens.
Heavy-precipitation events, which are made more likely by climate change, are already on the rise in the United States, and their frequency and magnitude are expected to increase in the years to come.
Those like Senator Portman who claim to be trying to protect us from the costs of tackling climate change overlook the fact that we are already paying for it: a recent NRDC analysis found that Ohioans paid an estimated $4.2 billion or about $1,100 per taxpayer in federal taxes for recovery from extreme weather events in 2012 alone.
These new gains would build on the strong benefits that the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries have already providded Ohio, including:
- $230 million in energy bill savings for homeowners and businesses;
- Nearly 24, 000 new jobs in research and development, manufacturing, construction, engineering, administration and other fields;
- $600 million in new investments in the state's economy.
Finally, it is worth noting that Senator Portman's opposition to carbon standards for power plants is contrary to Ohio public opinion, not to mention the views of scores of businesses, health groups and others.
- A recent bipartisan poll shows that 84% of Ohioans support Ohio developing a plan to meet the EPA carbon limits - and that support includes 87% of Republicans and 80% of Independents. Under Portman's proposal, however, state leaders could choose to do no plan at all.
- An impressive array of small businesses, Fortune 500 firms, and major investors support the Clean Power Plan, Small Business Majority, Environmental Entrepreneurs, the American Sustainable Business Council, the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, Advanced Energy Economy, American Wind Energy Association, and the SolarEnergy Industries Association.
- Health groups including the American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Hispanic Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Thoracic Society also support the carbon standards.
Bottom line: there are plenty of reasons to support efforts to protect our kids and future generations from climate change. Its inexcusable for politicians like Senator Portman to prevent us from doing so.