January 6, 2015
This fall, Professor Charles Driscoll, along with an interdisciplinary group of scientists, submitted a public comment to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to the Clean Carbon Plan—a new set of standards released in June aimed at cutting carbon pollution from power plants to help combat climate change.
“We know that other pollutants associated with fossil fuel combustion, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter, contribute to increased risk of premature death and heart attacks, as well as increased incidence and severity of asthma and other health effects. They also contribute to ecosystem effects, like acid rain, ozone damage to trees and crops, and the accumulation of toxic mercury in fish,” says Driscoll, “Our research shows that there is a real opportunity to help reverse decades of environmental damage from power plant emissions and to improve human health.”
Drawing from their research, Part 1 and Part 2 of the Co-Benefits of Carbon Standard Study, their comment explains how a strong carbon standard will improve air quality, public health, and the environment by also decreasing emissions of other pollutants. The degree to which these air quality and health benefits occur varies based on the stringency, flexibility of compliance options, and demand-side energy efficiency of the design of the standard the EPA rolls out. The team also references research currently underway to predict the benefits to the ecosystem of reduced sulfur and nitrogen deposition.
Ultimately, the group recommends that the EPA take the emission of these co-pollutants into account when the plan is implemented to ensure that each state in the US is able to reap the potential benefits.
For additional information on Driscoll’s research, check out “Rules to Cut Carbon Emissions Also Reduce Other Air Pollutants” and “Power Plant Standards Could Save Thousands of U.S. Lives Every Year.”