Coal Industry Knocks Study of EPA Power Plant Rule

A coal industry group criticized a recent study showcasing the health benefits of forthcoming power plant emission limits.

A coal industry group criticized a recent study showcasing the health benefits of forthcoming power plant emissions limits.

The analysis by researchers from Syracuse University and Harvard University showed that potential restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants would stave off 3,500 premature deaths annually. The report also indicated emissions limits could prevent more than 1,000 heart attacks and other hospitalizations attributed to air pollution-related illnesses.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, however, said that the study ignored the economic consequences of those regulations.

“This is more than just an academic exercise to the tens of millions of Americans who depend on affordable, reliable electricity to power their homes and places of work every day,” said ACCCE spokeswoman Laura Sheehan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue a final determination on curbing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants this summer. The rules will vary according to state, but the agency hopes to ultimately reduce those emissions by 30 percent between 2005 and 2030.

Republican critics in Congress, however, are gearing up to fight the proposal and several states are likely to challenge the final ruling in court. The attorneys general from Oklahoma and West Virginia told a Senate panel this week that the EPA proposal would lead to job losses, increased electricity prices and potential power outages.

“We know that taking coal power offline will lead to electricity disruptions including blackouts, brownouts and rationing,” added Sheehan. “These disruptions are not just nuisances; they jeopardize hospital and emergency care, city sanitation systems and regular commerce.”

The emissions plan study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, examined three potential EPA rules and their likely impact on reducing smog and soot from power plants.

"The bottom line is, the more the standards promote cleaner fuels and energy efficiency, the greater the added health benefits,” said Syracuse engineering professor Charles Driscoll.

The option with the greatest health benefits anticipated preventing between 780 to up to 6,100 deaths nationwide each year. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas would see the largest amounts, according to the research.

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