DHI Media Staff Writer

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a nationwide framework to cut carbon pollution from power plants. Proponents say that climate change is already posing risks to our nation’s health and economy.

The EPA says the Clean Power Plan will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting the nation’s health and environment now and for future generations.

Columbus Public Health Department’s Section Chief of the Division of Environmental Health Luke Jacobs said public health and climate change go hand-in-hand.

“We applaud President Obama and the EPA’s effort to reduce carbon emissions,” he said. “We hope Ohio carries forward with the plans of reducing carbon emissions.”

Power plants are the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, making close to one-third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan puts the nation on track to cut carbon pollution from the power sector by 30 percent by 2030 — that’s about 730 million metric tonnes of carbon pollution. That equates to the annual emissions from more than 150 million cars, or almost two-thirds of the nation’s passenger vehicles; or the annual emissions from powering 65 million homes, over half the homes in America.

“CO2 is one of the two major greenhouse gases contributing to global warming which impact our environment in detrimental ways,” Jacobs explained. “One of the main concerns is the migration of mosquitoes — specifically those carrying the chikungunya virus that’s spreading in the Caribbean.”

Health officials report the disease carrying vectors may have landed in Tennessee.

Jacobs said the hot, dry and wet climate impacted by the changes in environment are the catalyst for the migration.

The Clean Power Plan has reported public health and climate benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion per year in 2030, outweighing the costs of implementation at $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion.

According to the EPA’s Fact Sheet By the Numbers, reducing exposure to particle pollution and ozone will avoid a projected 2,700-6,600 premature deaths, 140,000-150,000 asthma attacks in children, 340-3,300 heart attacks, 2,700-2,800 hospital admissions and 470,000-490,000 missed school and work days.

The EPA estimates that from the soot and smog reductions alone, for every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan, American families will see up to $7 in health benefits.

The Clean Power Plan will reduce smaller pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick.

“We are concerned about smaller particulate matter — PM2.5, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide — and anytime we have the ability to reduce them, the health field is supportive of that,” Jacobs confirmed.

In the U.S., there are 1,000 fossil fuel-fired power plants with 3,000 units covered by the plan. Utility planners are already making plans to address an aging fleet; the average age of coal units is 42 years; the average age of oil units is 36 years; and the average age of natural gas combined cycle units is 14 years.

State climate, energy efficiency and renewable energy policy statistics are in place in some states, cities and businesses which have set energy efficiency targets increasing their use of renewable energy to cut carbon pollution.

Ohio law contains an alternative energy portfolio standard requiring 25 percent of electricity sold by Ohio’s electric distribution utilities or electric services companies must be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025. At least half of this energy must come from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, biomass and hydro with a minimum of one-half percent coming from solar resources. One-half of the renewable energy facilities must be located in Ohio.

The EPA also reports that there are currently 47 states with utilities that run demand-side energy efficiency programs, 38 states with renewable portfolio standards or goals, 10 states with market based greenhouse gas emissions programs and 27 states with energy efficiency standards or goals.

Each state’s initial plan or complete plan is due June 30, 2016, and some states may be eligible for one or two year extensions when proposing either an individual or multi-state plan.