It’s not rocket science — we all know how dangerous coal-fired power plants are. For decades, Americans have been breathing in noxious chemicals from these plants that led to tens of thousands of premature deaths a year, deaths that could otherwise have been avoided by breathing cleaner air.
Today, however, there’s good news. Coal-fired power plants are on the decline, mainly due to an increase in natural gas production (another story) and just recently, the EPA announced it would increase regulation of soot, a common by-product of coal-fired power plants, factories and diesel vehicles, in an effort to decrease the number of health-related cases associated with this notorious pollutant. Soot is a fine mixture of particles that penetrates into the lungs, causing asthma as well as heart attacks. According to Earthjustice, “Because so many of us are exposed to elevated levels of particle pollution, it’s hard to find a deadlier air pollutant than soot.”
Paul Cort, the Earthjustice attorney who fought on behalf of concerned citizen groups, compelled a federal judge to rule in favor of stronger soot regulation. This same judge subsequently ordered the EPA to immediately release a proposal indicating how the agency would increase regulation and thereby decrease pollution. The final EPA standard is due on December 14, 2012 and the public comment period opens in a few weeks.
This is an important move in the right decision, both for our environment and for our health, and is a direct result of collective and organized citizen action, which appears to be the best way to get policy-maker attention, particularly when energy companies have such a solid grip on how business is run in Washington, DC and locally.
Nonetheless, the EPA will surely face an uphill battle against the coal lobby who, like other energy giants, will stop at nothing to maintain their profit margin. Still, the numbers don’t lie: “…a truly strong soot standard could prevent nearly 36,000 premature deaths every year.” Let’s hope Washington gets the message. After all, a proposal that saves lives is worth paying attention to.
Photo Credit: JW Randolph