By Gianna Hutton González, Advocacy Intern
This past June, affiliates from across the United States testified to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advocating to pass and strengthen new federal limits on climate pollution from power plants. For more than a decade, people of faith and conscience have advocated for stronger EPA measures cutting climate pollution from power plants. This blog post will help you learn why we need this ruling and how you can use your voice to strengthen it.
What does this ruling do?
This rule would be the first of its kind to limit carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants, new gas-fired power plants, and a subset of existing gas-fired power plants. There is a large potential to enhance these requirements and for the EPA, along with other federal agencies, to integrate additional measures to protect and ensure the welfare of communities in the process.
The existing fossil fuel power plants targeted by this proposal currently produce 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global warming in the United States, ranking second to the transportation sector. Alexander Malchow, Wisconsin Policy Coordinator with IPL’s Wisconsin affiliate, Faith in Place, highlighted this in testimony, quantifying the impact of these limits.
“According to the agency’s analysis, this proposal would slash carbon pollution by 617 million metric tons, equivalent to removing 137 million gas-guzzling cars from the road,” Malchow said.
“This reduction is significant for battling climate change and crucial for addressing the direct, substantial harm caused to marginalized and frontline communities by power plant pollution.”
How does it benefit community health?
Beyond cutting carbon emissions, these proposed standards would also significantly reduce toxic pollution. Fossil fuel-powered electricity plants release various pollutants, beyond carbon dioxide and methane, posing extreme risks to public health. By reducing our dependence on these plants, the fewer of these pollutants there will be.
“Poor air quality caused by the emission of greenhouse gasses increases the risk of heart and respiratory disease. Fenceline communities, or those closest to polluting facilities, are overwhelmingly folks with low-income and/or Black, Latinx, and Indigenous folks,” tsshare sanders, Program Coordinator at Georgia Interfaith Power & Light said. “I heard a pastor say once that you can place a plant anywhere, but you can’t contain its impact. So although these communities are top of mind for me, the reality is we are all harmed by pollution that these facilities cause.”
Implementing new standards for coal-fired and gas-fired power plants will lead to significant reductions in emissions of fine particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides over the next two decades, translating into massive public health benefits, especially for frontline communities.
“The proposed EPA standards aim to address these disparities, expected to deliver up to $85 billion in net public health benefits through 2042. The benefits include averting 1,300 premature deaths annually, preventing 300,000 asthma attacks, and reducing hospitalizations, school absences, and lost workdays,” Malchow said.
What can I do?
While the proposed standards are a huge step towards enhancing public health and protecting our common home, it is crucial to acknowledge that they are currently in the proposal stage. To ensure the EPA passes the strongest version of these standards, it will require substantial public support.
“We must go even further to tackle the climate crisis, protect our health, and slash pollution that harms our communities — especially those that have been disproportionately harmed and live near fossil fuel facilities,” Rev. Susan Hendershot, President of Interfaith Power & Light said.
As people of faith and conscience, we are tasked with building a more just world—one that is in line with our calling to care for our neighbors and all of Creation, our Sacred Earth. We must raise our voices to close the loopholes that benefit polluters and burden frontline communities.
You can join Alexander, tsharre, and Rev. Susan in sharing your comments with the EPA here.