Air pollution may shorten lives in real NEO by 14+ years - reducing power plant pollution will have almost immediate benefits

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Fri, 09/10/2010 - 04:32.

 

The chart above shows citizens of Northeast Ohio have the worst level of mortality from coal fired power plants in America - based on an online risk assessment tool accompanying the September 2010 Clean Air Taskforce study The Toll From Coal - An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America’s Dirtiest Energy Source. As the introduction states: "Among all industrial sources of air pollution, none poses greater risks to human health and the environment than coal-fired power plants – perhaps most consequential of all from a public health standpoint – fine particle pollution."

Fine particles are especially dangerous because they can bypass the body’s defensive mechanisms and become lodged deep in the human lung. Indeed, research also indicates that short-term exposures to fine particle pollution is linked to cardiac effects, including increased risk of heart attack. Meanwhile, long-term exposure to fine particle pollution has been shown to increase the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory diseases and lung cancer, resulting in shorter life-expectancy for people living in the most polluted cities compared to people who live in cleaner cities. And although research suggests fine particles reduce the average life span of the general population by a few years, the life of an individual dying as a result of exposure to air pollution may be shortened by 14 years.

The hopeful news for Northeast Ohio in this science is:

Because most fine particle-related deaths are thought to occur within a year or two of exposure, reducing power plant pollution will have almost immediate benefits.

The worst news is, considering the greatest harm to human health comes from fine particle pollution, and Northeast Ohio has many more sources of fine particle pollution than just the 500 major coal power plants considered in the data of this study (think Mittal), it is an understatement to say the air pollution situation in Northeast Ohio is far worse than it appears in this Clean Air Taskforce report, and there Ohio is ranked the second-worst America gets... and the Cleveland-area is the 8th most toxic metropolitan area in the county...


Excessive Particulate Air Pollution in Cleveland, Ohio, is largely caused by Areclor/Mittal steel mill. While EPA
air quality monitoring equipment is always defective, results regularly show VERY unsafe air pollution levels here.

But the Clean Air Taskforce study doesn't include projections of harm from smaller coal fired power plants and industrial boilers here, like MCCO and Cleveland Thermal, nor from the Arcelor/Mittal combination steel mill in downtown Cleveland - which is by far the most toxic point source in our region... and far worse in ways than coal power plants - nor the toxins from over 160 other hazardous point sources in the EPA Toxic Release Inventory data for Cuyahoga County - not to mention the point sources in the other highly-developed, surrounding, contaminating counties... and transportation related pollution from our heavily traveled roads, airports, rails and waterways...

So, you soon realize, the Best Location in the Nation is by far the least fitting name for Cleveland imaginable - the most toxic location in the nation is more accurate.

To realNEO readers, this shouldn't be surprising news.

I've been posting warnings on realNEO about excessive air pollution readings in Northeast Ohio... shared findings of the most recent scientific reports on the harm caused by air pollution to humans... and I am encouraging fighting every pollution point source possible to reduce the harm to citizens here... and I expect more help is on its way. President Obama was just in Cleveland and he wasn't here to smell the roses - he knows he needs to fight our pollution, which necessitates significant changes to the environmental and coal policies he inherited from past administrations - including Clinton - and that science proves foolish today.


Medical Center Company (MCCO) coal powerplant in University Circle, harming residents and
workers in the densely populated and economically distressed surrounding neighborhood

Science and technology are increasingly making it impossible for incompetent or corrupt government like in Northeast Ohio, and illuminati lawyers like at Jones Day, and industrialists like at Cliffs, and political insiders like at Medical Center Company, to build smoke and mirrors around their industries, from which they profit excessively in places like Northeast Ohio, by polluting excessively in places like Northeast Ohio, as the citizens polluted may use technology like realNEO to document and share real science and create an enlightened community unwilling to die for illuminati profit.

And that is the best thing happening in Northeast Ohio today.


Sample from over 160 hazardous point sources in the EPA Toxic Release Inventory data for Cuyahoga County

So, citizens are increasingly able to use the Internet to access data like from the EPA Toxic Release Inventory, and Air Quality monitoring services, and research like at the Clean Air Taskforce, and private data services like via Google Maps, to assemble composite understandings of places like Northeast Ohio that may determine this is not a safe place to live at all - and I believe that is the case today.... where the air pollution monitoring is ineffective today.


In the first study ever done on the local health effects of the domes of carbon dioxide that develop above cities,
Stanford researcher Mark Jacobson found that the domes increase the local death rate

I base my opinion this is not a safe place to live on expert second opinions on available data on air pollution toxin releases from all sources in the area, and understanding of the cumulative effects of the cumulative toxins in Cleveland and surrounding suburbs, based on exposure to air pollution from point sources including Arcelor/Mittal and the 160+ polluters in the EPA toxic release Inventory in Cuyahoga County, point source polluters not included in this inventory, mobile pollution, and the pollution considered in the report from the Clean Air Taskforce introduced here today - ADDED ALL TOGETHER, OVER OUR LIFETIMES.


Arcelor/Mittal Cleveland Works Steel Mill in Downtown Cleveland,
viewed from I-77 to I-490 Interchange - July, 2006

From the Taskforce report:

Results from this latest assessment indicate that although coal plant emissions of key particle-forming pollutants like sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have declined significantly over the last several years, existing plants remain among the top contributors to fine particle pollution in the United States. As a result, their emissions continue to take a significant toll on the health and longevity of millions of Americans.

Specifically, Abt Associate’s analysis finds that fine particle pollution from existing coal plants is expected to cause nearly 13,200 deaths in 2010. Additional impacts include an estimated 9,700 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year. The total monetized value of these adverse health impacts adds up to more than $100 billion per year. This burden is not distributed evenly across the population. Adverse impacts are especially severe for the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. In addition, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in areas downwind of multiple power plants are likely to be disproportionately exposed to the health risks and costs of fine particle pollution.

C"harm"ing Little Italy Double brought to you my MCCO, University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University

"poor, minority groups, and people who live in areas downwind of multiple power plants" sounds like Cleveland... and especially my neighborhood of East Cleveland, downwind of Mittal, Cleveland Thermal, Lakeshore and MCCO.

The direct link between power plant emissions and human health has been documented in an extensive body of scientific research drawing on multiple lines of evidence, including several rigorous, large-scale epidemiological studies.

In brief, public health concerns have focused, for at least the last decade, on the role of very small airborne particles in causing or contributing to a host of respiratory and cardiopulmonary ailments and increasing the risk of premature death. Fine particles are especially dangerous because they can bypass the body’s defensive mechanisms and become lodged deep in the human lung. Indeed, research also indicates that short-term exposures to fine particle pollution is linked to cardiac effects, including increased risk of heart attack. Meanwhile, long-term exposure to fine particle pollution has been shown to increase the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory diseases and lung cancer, resulting in shorter life-expectancy for people living in the most polluted cities compared to people who live in cleaner cities. And although research suggests fine particles reduce the average life span of the general population by a few years, the life of an individual dying as a result of exposure to air pollution may be shortened by 14 years.

Unfortunately, that means we have "shorter life-expectancy for people living in the most polluted cities compared to people who live in cleaner cities" and so can expect the following outcomes: the life of an individual dying as a result of exposure to air pollution may be shortened by 14 years.

Adverse effects, including excess mortality, occur even at low ambient concentrations of fine particles—suggesting there is no “safe” threshold for this type of pollution. Recent studies have also succeeded in identifying plausible biological mechanisms such as systemic inflammation, accelerated atherosclerosis, and altered cardiac function to explain the cardiac and other serious health impacts associated with exposure to airborne fine particles.

Because most fine particle-related deaths are thought to occur within a year or two of exposure, reducing power plant pollution will have almost immediate benefits.

Moreover, many of the nation’s existing coal plants are old—in fact, the average age of the current coal fleet is 44 years and has very little in the way of modern pollution controls. These same aging plants also contribute disproportionately to power-sector emissions of other harmful pollutants such as mercury and other air toxics, as well as emissions of the chief greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.


Emissions from Cleveland Thermal coal steam plant smokestack, in downtown Cleveland, Ohio,
burning 24x365 for decades to heat and cool large enterprises and institutions - not citizens - even on this hot air-advisory day

The sad punchline of the joke on us is that "because most fine particle-related deaths are thought to occur within a year or two of exposure, reducing power plant pollution will have almost immediate benefits." So, for example, if when I first posted about excessive pollution at Mittal, in 2006, Mittal had been forced to reduce emissions, or eliminate operations, that would have saved lives IMMEDIATELY - every day they pollute excessively here LIVES ARE LOST!

Meaning if ten years ago - or last year - community leaders of University Circle institutions that are customers of Medical Center Company - or downtown business customers of Cleveland Thermal - had refused to purchase heat generated by coal, and forced their suppliers to switch to natural gas or renewable energy - many lives would have been saved... 1,000,000s of area residents would be healthier, and live longer into the future, better.

We aren't well informed about these realities in Northeast Ohio, because the media and leadership here are corrupted by coal - politicians are related by blood to coal - the media is sold-out to coal....

In typically misinforming coverage of the environment, and The Toll From Coal, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer - Environment groups rap coal-burning power plants for health problems in Ohio, United States - the reporter bothered to interview a lobbyist for the coal industry about this report, giving the polluter a stronger presence to the public than the science the reporter was covering...:

The head of the Ohio Coal Association dismissed the study as a political maneuver.

"In any study, there's fact and there's opinion, but this is mostly opinion," said association President Mike Carey. "The fact is sulfur and nitrogen oxide have gone down and for them to do a study saying these horrible things is simply one more attempt to eliminate America's most reliable energy source."

And, the number 2 polluter-presence in the article was given to major Plain Dealer advertiser and largest Northeast Ohio polluter FirstEnergy:

FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said the report was "alarmist" and made "outlandish claims" in regard to health concerns.

"But we're glad to see that they've at least acknowledged that the air is now cleaner -- and it's because power plants have installed quite a bit of expensive equipment," Durbin said. "We've done a number of things over the years to reduce emissions and we'll continue to do so."

Durbin said that FirstEnergy's WH Sammis power plant near East Liverpool is in the process of installing $1.6 billion worth of scrubbers and other pollution control equipment. Those improvements were part of the settlement of a lawsuit against the company by the EPA.

Compare those reflections from industry to the realities presented in the conclusion of the Clean Air Taskforce report:

Though significant reductions in power sector SO2 and NOx emissions have been achieved since 2000 when CATF first analyzed the impact of power plant pollution on our nation’s health, the task of cleaning up the number one source of pollution is far from over. Thousands of lives have been saved, but the fact remains that thousands more could be saved—and a much greater number of asthma attacks, heart attacks, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, lost workdays and the associated societal costs could still be avoided. The progress to date—since 2004, the U.S. has cut SO2 and NOx pollution by almost half without affecting electricity prices or bills, natural gas prices, or the reliability of the power system—powerfully confirms that: (1) the Clean Air Act works, and (2) the technologies required to achieve deep reductions in these pollutants are widely available and very effective. Now is the time to finish the job of cleaning up our nation’s power sector by strengthening and finalizing a stringent Transport Rule, as well as by reducing mercury and other toxics, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Doing so would provide a host of benefits—prominent among them further substantial gains in the health and longevity of millions of Americans—and would help propel the nation to a more sustainable energy future. For full state and MSA data tables, please go to: www.catf.us/coal/problems/power_plants/existing/

Pimping for coal is not new to the Plain Dealer... it is a weekly trick.

Who may forget last week's supreme pimping by the Plain Dealer for Cleveland based coal giant CLIFFS and their new mascot for Cleveland - Cliffs Natural Resources launches 'Witness' ad campaign with dig at LeBron James - acknowledging the "publicity campaign is to raise awareness of the mining and natural resources company among Clevelanders".


Witle$$ - Digital Manipulation of Cliffs Mascot, by Norm Roulet

I believe realNEO and the following report from the Clean Air Taskforce raise far more important awareness of Cliffs, the mining and natural resources industry, and the harm they and their related industries do to Clevelanders than does the Plain Dealer.

Please read  The Toll From Coal - An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America’s Dirtiest Energy Source - in its entirely below:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Among all industrial sources of air pollution, none poses greater risks to human health and the environment than coal-fired power plants. Emissions from coal- fired power plants contribute to global warming, ozone smog, acid rain, regional haze, and—perhaps most consequential of all from a public health standpoint — fine particle pollution. In 2000 and again in 2004, the Clean Air Task Force commissioned comprehensive studies of health impacts caused by fine particle air pollution from the nation’s roughly 500 coal-fired power plants. Each study incorporated the latest scientific findings concerning the link between air pollution and public health, as well as up-to-date emissions information. Both found that emissions from the U.S. power sector cause tens of thousands of premature deaths each year and hundreds of thousands of heart attacks, asthma attacks, emergency room visits, hospital admissions, and lost workdays.

This study provides a new update on the burden of death and disease from coal-based electricity production across the United States. Estimated impacts are based on projected power sector emissions in 2010. As in our 2000 and 2004 reports, Clean Air Task Force commissioned Abt Associates to conduct the analysis for this study. Abt Associates developed estimates of health impacts using a well-established and extensively peer-reviewed methodology that has been approved by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Science Advisory Board and the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). In fact, the same methodology has provided the basis for regulatory impact analyses in the context of recent EPA rulemakings.

Results from this latest assessment indicate that although coal plant emissions of key particle-forming pollutants like sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have declined significantly over the last several years, existing plants remain among the top contributors to fine particle pollution in the United States. As a result, their emissions continue to take a significant toll on the health and longevity of millions of Americans.

Specifically, Abt Associate’s analysis finds that fine particle pollution from existing coal plants is expected to cause nearly 13,200 deaths in 2010. Additional impacts include an estimated 9,700 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year. The total monetized value of these adverse health impacts adds up to more than $100 billion per year. This burden is not distributed evenly across the population. Adverse impacts are especially severe for the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. In addition, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in areas downwind of multiple power plants are likely to be disproportionately exposed to the health risks and costs of fine particle pollution. These figures take into account emissions reductions from regulatory changes that have happened since 2004, when the Clean Air Task Force last sponsored a comprehensive assessment of adverse health impacts from the fleet of existing coal-fired power plants. In 2005, EPA issued the Clean Air

Interstate Rule (CAIR), which was designed to achieve further reductions in SO2 and NOx emissions from power plants in the eastern United States. CAIR was subsequently challenged and ultimately struck down in federal court in 2008 for failing to conform to aspects of the Clean Air Act, but the court has allowed the CAIR requirements to remain in place until EPA can issue a replacement rule. For the purposes of this reanalysis of health impacts from the nation’s existing power plants, Abt Associates assumed that a regulation as stringent as the CAIR rule would be in place in 2010. Comparing estimated health impacts from the 2004 analysis and this updated assessment serves to underscore the direct link between reduced power plant emissions and substantial public health benefits. For example, Abt Associates’ estimate of 13,200 deaths from fine particle pollution in 2010 compares to an estimate of nearly 24,000 deaths per year from existing plants in the 2004 study. Similar public health gains are evident in the estimated incidence of other adverse impacts including hospital admissions (9,700 in 2010 compared to 21,850 in 2004) and heart attacks (20,400 in 2010 compared to 38,200 in 2004).

The improvements in public health estimated by Abt Associates are consistent with observed reductions in national sulfur dioxide emissions since 2004. Over  that period of time, sulfur dioxide emissions nationally fell from 10.3 million tons in 2004 to 5.7 million tons in 2009.1 These reductions largely resulted from the  addition of over 130 flue gas desulfurization (FGD) (also known as “scrubbers”) installations on coal-fired units, mostly in the eastern U.S. These scrubbers were installed as a result of the combination of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), federal and state enforcement of the New Source Review (NSR) provisions of the Clean Air Act, and state power plant clean up laws. These actions are responsible for saving nearly 11,000 lives per year and demonstrate that judicious use of the Clean Air Act offers a powerful solution to power plant pollution.

Jobs and Public Health
 Reducing air pollution from the nation’s power plants is not just good for public health; it is also good for the nation’s economy. Pollution control  technologies, such as scrubbers for SO2, are large projects that require a tremendous amount of skilled labor and materials. Since 2004 roughly 130 scrubbers have been installed at existing power plants. The average scrubber requires 380,000 man-hours or 200 person-years to complete. Each scrubber installation can take roughly 2 years to complete which means roughly100 people working over this period. These jobs are both engineering and management jobs as well as jobs for boilermakers and other skilled labor.

These results not only point to the necessity of preserving emissions reductions mandated under CAIR, but the need for even stronger measures to further mitigate the still unacceptably high burden of death and disease from coal-fired power plants going forward. With a national commitment to deploy the most advanced pollution control technologies, implement cost- effective efficiency improvements, and steadily increase the use of inherently cleaner sources of electricity, the opportunity exists to save thousands more lives and avert costly health impacts due to power sector emissions.

Specifically, to reduce the death and disease associated with power plant-related particulate matter pollution from SO2 and NOx, EPA should strengthen and finalize the recently proposed Transport Rule to replace the judicially invalidated Clean Air Interstate Rule. Stronger regional caps on SO2 and NOx pollution are achievable and cost effective and would reflect both the progress made and the performance of the most recent pollution control equipment. In the last five years, emissions control equipment installed at power plants around the country (flue gas desulfurization or FGD for SO2 and selective catalytic reduction or SCR for NOx reduction) have helped coal plants achieve reductions in their emission rates of SO2 and NOx by an average of 72 percent and 74 percent respectively.3 The result has been a reduction in SO2 and NOx pollution by almost half without noticeably affecting electricity prices or bills, natural gas prices, or the reliability of the power system.

Over the years; however, implementation of the Clean Air Act has often been stalled due to lawsuits and other delays. To preserve the recent emission reductions, speed further reductions, avoid years of costly litigation delay from industry challenges to these regulations, and offer certainty with respect to environmental objectives and costs, CATF supports efforts in Congress to set a more protective national cap on power plant SO2 emissions at 2 million tons per year in 2015 and 1.5 million tons per year in 2018. This same proposal would establish a national power plant NOx cap at 1.6 million tons in 2015. CATF has testified in support of strengthening and passing this legislation that, if enacted, would prevent tens of thousands of premature deaths, heart attacks and other health impacts.

How do the numbers compare to EPA’s?

U.S. EPA in its Transport Rule proposal estimates that the rule will prevent the deaths of 14,000 to 36,000 people annually from power plant pollution starting in 2014. How does this estimate compare to CATF’s estimate in this report that power plant pollution is causing the premature deaths of 13,200 people in 2010? The answer gets to the heart of why we need a strong Clean Air Transport Rule. First, remember that one of the steps that has reduced emissions from power plants since our 2004 report rests on shaky legal ground. Some of the reductions were driven by the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which the court struck down in 2008. In the proposed Regulatory Impact Analysis of the Transport Rule, EPA had to assume that the CAIR does not exist. So, EPA compared the benefits of its proposed Transport Rule to a base case with none of the cleanup measures required by the CAIR. By contrast, CATF in this report is estimating the total number of power plant pollution-related deaths that will occur this year under current emissions—that is, with all the existing cleanup measures in place and operating. CATF assumed that a rule at least as stringent as CAIR is in effect in 2010. In fact, the CAIR rule has driven the installation of dozens of sulfur scrubbers since 2004 and these emission control devices currently are running. So, we credit those reductions as part of our analysis. However, there is an operation and maintenance cost associated with these scrubbers and power companies will not continue to run them indefinitely unless they are legally required to do so. That is why it is so important that EPA strengthen and finalize the Transport Rule – otherwise, these reductions are at risk.

Secondly, EPA estimated the lives saved by the Transport Rule as a range (i.e., 14,000 to 36,000 lives annually). The lower number of this range is based on the results from the American Cancer Society study (Pope et al. 2002) and the higher number is based on the Harvard Six-Cities Study (Laden et al. 2006). CATF in its 2000 and 2004 reports used the American Cancer Society study. For consistency’s sake, we do so again in the current report. That means that if we used estimates based on the Harvard Six-Cities Study, the number of lives saved each year would be much, much higher.

The Link between Power Plant Pollution and Human Health

The direct link between power plant emissions and human health has been documented in an extensive body of scientific research drawing on multiple lines of evidence, including several rigorous, large-scale epidemiological studies. Much of that literature has been reviewed and summarized in formal rulemakings and regulatory analyses by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the last several years and in reports published by the Clean Air Task Force and other organizations advocating on behalf of more stringent regulation of power sector emissions.

In brief, public health concerns have focused, for at least the last decade, on the role of very small airborne particles in causing or contributing to a host of respiratory and cardiopulmonary ailments and increasing the risk of premature death. Fine particles are especially dangerous because they can bypass the body’s defensive mechanisms and become lodged deep in the human lung. Indeed, research also indicates that short-term exposures to fine particle pollution is linked to cardiac effects, including increased risk of heart attack. Meanwhile, long-term exposure to fine particle pollution has been shown to increase the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory diseases and lung cancer, resulting in shorter life-expectancy for people living in the most polluted cities compared to people who live in cleaner cities.7 And although research suggests fine particles reduce the average life span of the general population by a few years, the life of an individual dying as a result of exposure to air pollution may be shortened by 14 years.

Adverse effects, including excess mortality, occur even at low ambient concentrations of fine particles—suggesting there is no “safe” threshold for this type of pollution.9 Recent studies have also succeeded in identifying plausible biological mechanisms such as systemic inflammation, accelerated atherosclerosis, and altered cardiac function to explain the cardiac and other serious health impacts associated with exposure to airborne fine particles.

Because most fine particle-related deaths are thought to occur within a year or two of exposure, reducing power plant pollution will have almost immediate benefits. Unfortunately, persistently elevated levels of fine particle pollution are common across wide swaths of the country, particularly in the eastern United States. Fine particle pollution itself consists of a complex mixture of harmful pollutants including elements as diverse as soot, acid droplets, and metals. Most of these pollutants originate from combustion sources such as power plants, diesel trucks, buses, and cars. East of the Mississippi, sulfates are a dominant ingredient of fine particle pollution. Sulfates are formed in the atmosphere from sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions, which also contribute— along with emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx)—to the formation of airborne acidic particles. In 2008, power plants accounted for 66% of the national SO2 inventory with the vast majority of this contribution (more than 98%) coming from coal-fired power plants. Sulfur emissions from coal-fired power plants thus emerge as the chief driver of adverse health impacts from industrial sources of air pollution across much of the country. Moreover, many of the nation’s existing coal plants are old—in fact, the average age of the current coal fleet is 44 years and has very little in the way of modern pollution controls. These same aging plants also contribute disproportionately to power-sector emissions of other harmful pollutants such as mercury and other air toxics, as well as emissions of the chief greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.

Over the last two decades considerable progress has been achieved in reducing SO2 and NOx emissions from the U.S. power sector. Under a variety of Clean Air Act programs and regulations designed to address acid rain, particulate matter (PM) pollution, ozone smog, and regional haze,power plant emissions of SO2 in 2009 fell to approximately one- third of the national total in1980; a similar reduction was likewise achieved in national-level power sector NOx emissions over the same time frame. The updated estimates of adverse health impacts presented in the next section take these trends into account and assume that actual emissions in 2010 remain in line with recent experience and regulatory expectations under the CAIR rule. They show that despite the record of progress in reducing power plant emissions over the last 15 to 20 years, the burden of death and disease from coal-based electricity production in the United States remains too high.

Results of the Analysis

To analyze adverse health impacts from current levels of power plant emissions in the United States, Abt Associates analyzed emission data supplied by US EPA and applied methodologies used in previous Clean Air Task Force studies and in recent EPA regulatory impact analyses which have been extensively peer-reviewed and approved by both EPA’s Science Advisory Board and by the National Academy of Sciences. Briefly, it begins by calculating the impact of a given change in power plant emissions on ambient air quality and specifically on ambient fine particle concentrations. It then applies results from epidemiological studies to estimate expected changes in the incidence of several adverse health outcomes, such as hospital admissions, asthma attacks, and premature deaths.

Table 1 summarizes the results of Abt Associate’s analysis for the nation’s existing fleet of coal plants in 2010. The table includes estimates of the monetary cost associated with these impacts using standard valuation metrics for illness and premature death. It suggests that the total monetized value of adverse health impacts attributable to existing coal plants in the United States exceeds $100 billion per year. Figure 2 shows how these health risks and costs are distributed geographically. Clearly those areas with the highest concentration of coal plants (indicated by yellow circles on the map) bear a disproportionate share of the aggregate burden of adverse impacts.

The analysis indicates that even with the first phase of the CAIR rule in place, the nation’s power plants still cause a broad swath of death and disease across the coal-burning Midwest, the South and the Mid-Atlantic region. Table 2 shows state-level results for those states with the highest incidence of adverse impacts. Not surprisingly, states with large populations in close proximity to many coal-fired power plants fare the worst. Conversely, states with large populations but without coal-fired plants fare much better. For example, California—the state with the largest population and some of the nation’s worst air quality—has very few coal or oil-fired power plants. Abt Associates estimates that only 41 premature deaths are attributable to power plant pollution in California; as a result, the state ranks almost last for power plant related mortality risk (47th out of the lower 48 states and the District of Columbia). West Virginia, the state with the highest reliance on coal for electricity production, ranks first in mortality risk.

Similarly, metropolitan areas with large populations near coal-fired power plants feel their impacts most acutely. In larger metropolitan areas, many hundreds of lives are shortened each year at current levels of power plant pollution.

In terms of added mortality and morbidity risks to individuals in different parts of the country, residents of much smaller metropolitan areas in and around “coal country” suffer the greatest individual risk of adverse health impacts. Examples of such areas include Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Steubenville, Ohio; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and Wheeling, West Virginia. People who live in these communities confront much higher mortality rates from fine particle pollution than do the residents of New York City: the estimated mortality risk for residents of Johnstown, Pennsylvania at 25 deaths per 100,000 people, for example, is more than four times that for New York City residents at nearly 6 deaths per 100,000 people.

At the same time, residents who live near, or are downwind (sometimes hundreds of miles) of the biggest coal plants suffer high mortality impacts, and other health impacts. For example, just ten of the worst plants are responsible for over 1,600 premature deaths a year.

Conclusion
Though significant reductions in power sector SO2 and NOx emissions have been achieved since 2000 when CATF first analyzed the impact of power plant pollution on our nation’s health, the task of cleaning up the number one source of pollution is far from over. Thousands of lives have been saved, but the fact remains that thousands more could be saved—and a much greater number of asthma attacks, heart attacks, hospitalizations, emergency room visits, lost workdays and the associated societal costs could still be avoided. The progress to date—since 2004, the U.S. has cut SO2 and NOx pollution by almost half without affecting electricity prices or bills, natural gas prices, or the reliability of the power system—powerfully confirms that: (1) the Clean Air Act works, and (2) the technologies required to achieve deep reductions in these pollutants are widely available and very effective. Now is the time to finish the job of cleaning up our nation’s power sector by strengthening and finalizing a stringent Transport Rule, as well as by reducing mercury and other toxics, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. Doing so would provide a host of benefits—prominent among them further substantial gains in the health and longevity of millions of Americans—and would help propel the nation to a more sustainable energy future.

For full state and MSA data tables, please go to: www.catf.us/coal/problems/power_plants/existing/

What are fine particles?                             
                                                     
Fine particles are a mixture of harmful pollutants   
(e.g. soot, acid droplets, metals) that originate    
primarily from combustion sources such as power       
plants, diesel trucks, buses, and cars. In 1997 EPA   
first set national health standards for fine particles
(referred to EPA as “PM2.5” or particulate matter    
smaller than 2.5 microns – 2.5 millionths of a       
meter in diameter – less than one-hundredth the       
width of a human hair and smaller). Fine particles   
are either soot emitted directly from these          
combustion sources or formed in the atmosphere       
from power plant sulfur dioxide (SO2) or nitrogen    
oxides (NOx) emissions. Among airborne particles,
the smallest (fine) combustion particles are of      
gravest concern because they are so tiny that they   
can be inhaled deeply and be absorbed into the       
bloodstream and transported to vital organs, thus    
evading the human lung’s natural defenses.            

Founded in 1996, the Clean Air Task Force is a nonprofit organization dedicated to
restoring clean air and healthy environments through scientific research, public
education, and legal advocacy.
MAIN OFFICE                                     OTHER LOCATIONS
18 Tremont Street                               Brunswick, ME
Suite 530                                       Carbondale, IL
Boston, MA 02108                                Columbus, OH
617.624.0234                                    Washington, DC
info [at] catf [dot] us                                    Beijing, China
www.catf.us
 

Acknowledgements
This work was made possible through the generous support of the Energy
Foundation. The study benefited from the work of a number of colleagues
and consultants including Theo Spencer and Peter Altman at the Natural
Resources Defense Council. The interactive web portion of this work was
constructed by Zev Ross of Zev Ross Spatial Analysis.
Written by: Conrad Schneider and Jonathan Banks, CATF
Edited by: Marika Tatsutani
Technical Assistance: David Schoengold, MSB Energy Associates
September 2010
 

 

COVER IMAGE:
December 28, 2007
Image by Nick Humphries , via Flickr Creative Commons
 

 

 

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Why "Sustainability" is an absurd concept for NEO

Why "Sustainability" is an absurd concept for NEO...!

Because of excessive polluting here, people in Northeast Ohio live shorter lives than the folks at the Rocky Mountain Institute who broadcast the industrial maintenance concept of sustainability to polluted places line Northeast Ohio - we sustain our health disadvantage as they ski longer, healthier lives... that's real sustainable if you live in the mountains of Colorado

We don't want to sustain what we have here in any way shape or form

Disrupt IT