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by Walter Epp
Wednesday, Apr. 30, 2003 at 12:21 PM
Public pressure needed to stop energy companies from killing thousands more people.
Our government is proposing to let polluting industries get away with
killing tens of thousands of people by eviscerating a key provision
of the Clean Air Act. Your help is needed to prevent this.
Pollution from U.S. electric power plants alone kills 30,000 people per year.
[ http://cta.policy.net/proactive/newsroom/release.vtml?id=19140 ]
That's about 10 times the number killed in the World Trade Center attack
of September 11. To date, for each American killed by terrorism, a
total of about 300 have been killed by electric power plant pollution,
so if we are rational and value life, we will spend 300 times as
much effort on stopping toxics than we spend on stopping terrorism.
Industries often oppose pollution reduction requirements saying it's
too expensive, but the facts are now in: for each dollar spent to comply
with clean air regulations, we have received in benefits through such
things as reduction in damage to health. What other investment yields a
4,200% return that is both risk-free and legitimate? Tens of trillions
of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved.
[ Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act 1970-1990:
But due to some big loopholes, the dirtiest plants have not been affected,
and polluters have been illegally calling major upgrades "routine
maintenance" to dodge the requirement for pollution reduction.
The administration is now trying to legitimize such shenanigans.
Children may be hit the hardest. Average health risks to children due to
exposure to power plant combustion wastes could be up to 10,000 times
higher than EPA's allowable risk levels for cancer and other illnesses.
In utero exposure to power plant pollutants was associated with learning
disabilities that extended to 8th grade.
[ Physicians for Social Responsibility (representing 22,000 physicians
and health professionals) http://www.commondreams.org/news2002/0613-10.htm
The administration is rewarding major campaign contributors with sweeping
rollbacks of the Clean Air Act's New Source Review safeguards, allowing
major energy corporations to increase air pollution dramatically.
A Center for Responsive Politics search of Federal Election Commission
data reveals that several of the utilities charged with violating this
clean air law were major campaign donors. [ Clear the Air
To send a letter to the EPA online, go to
Comment instructions from http://www.epa.gov/air/nsr-review/comment.html :
E-mail coments to A-and-R-Docket@epamail.epa.gov
Attention Docket ID No. A-2002-04
Mail two copies of comments to:
Attention Docket ID No. A-2002-04
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA West (Air Docket)
Room: B108, Mail code: 6102T
1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC, 20460
Fax comments to (202) 566-1741, Attention Docket ID. No. A-2002-04
The deadline is May 2, 2003.
Spread the word, pass this on to people you know, contact the media, etc.
Send a copy of your letter to your senators and house representative and
tell them to overrule any weakening of the Clean Air Act.
Tell your state attorney general and governor to challenge these moves and
maintain higher air quality standards in your state.
In the mean time, the more we reduce our consumption of electricity and
fossil fuels, the smaller the damage to people and other living beings.
Sample letter follows.
re: Docket ID No. A-2002-04
The proposed changes to New Source Review of the Clean Air Act, as well as
the other changes made in December 2002, must be withdrawn.
Any changes must be based on the principle that the right to life and
health takes precedence over economic concerns of industry.
The highest-polluting old plants have had a free ride for three decades.
That's far too long. It's unfair to allow them to literally get away
with murder while being given a competitive advantage, exempted
from rules everybody else is required to meet.
Thus the conditionality of New Source Review on major upgrades must be
eliminated for old plants. They must be required to meet current
standards as soon as practical and in any event no more than 2 years.
A market system cannot work if the costs are not properly accounted.
The full costs of damage to public health shall be calculated and
billed to polluters proportional to the amount of pollution. The bill must
not be slipped to consumers through higher health insurance or taxes.
Under capitalism, you get the reward if you assume the risk.
Under socialism, the public gets both the reward and the risk.
When industry gets the profit and the public gets the liability, we have
neither of these, but rather what is commonly called a swindle or a scam.
All permits and rules must be contingent on pollution reduction actually
occurring, not like the administration proposals that give concrete
benefits to industry in exchange for hypothetical effects on pollution
that may turn out in actuality to be increases rather than reductions.
For more details including rebuttal of industry/administration claims, see
The costs of outdoor air pollution are around billion per year.
So the question is not whether we pay, the question is who should pay:
the victims whose health is damaged, or those responsible for
causing the problem? billion is 100 times the amount lost in all
robberies. So if we are rational, we will spend 100 times more effort
cracking down on the damage caused by polluters than on street crime.
This proposal allows old, virtually uncontrolled power plants to continue
to emit enormous amounts of pollution by avoiding installation of modern
pollution controls. Power plant pollution is responsible for millions of
asthma attacks, hundreds of thousands of hospital emergency room visits,
and tens of thousands of premature deaths annually. [ Public Interest
Research Group http://pirg.org/alerts/route.asp?id=152&id4=POHP ]
Electric utilities have been generating as much as a billion pounds of
toxic chemicals per year, including sulfuric acid, mercury, lead,
hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, particulates, dioxins, arsenic,
cadmium, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, manganese compounds, nickel
compounds, n-hexane, toluene, etc. These chemicals cause cancer, asthma,
brain damage, fatigue, heart damage, lung damage, Parkinson's-like nervous
disorders, liver damage, kidney disorders, bronchitis, testicular damage,
dizziness, hearing loss, allergies, vision problems, poor balance, tooth
erosion, memory loss, death, etc. For details, see
This would be a major setback for public health. The only initiative
proposed by the Administration to reduce air pollution, the Clear Skies
Initiative, would not go into effect for 10 years or more. People living
with unhealthy levels of air pollution today can't hold their breath that
long. 175 million Americans live in areas violating air health standards.
Lung disease is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. [ American
Lung Association http://www.lungusa.org/press/envir/air_112202.html ]
Polluting industries have spent millions of dollars lobbying to avoid
being required to take responsibility for their actions. Industry claims
about clean-up costs and job losses have proven to be grossly inflated.
Sulfur dioxide emissions reductions now cost 1/10 what was predicted when
the Clean Air Act Amendments were passed, and there's a whole new
job-creating pollution control industry.
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