As we’ve explained previously, the more than 400 aging coal-fired power plants that litter our country impose a heavy toll on our health, environment, and climate. The U.S. EPA last week took a significant step towards reducing those impacts by finalizing the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (“CSAPR”).

That rule will save an estimated 13,000-34,000 lives per year by requiring coal plants to reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants. Take action now to show your support for the steps the EPA is taking to protect public health from big polluters like the coal industry.

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An article in the New York Times earlier this week highlighted the significant number of important environmental regulations that the EPA is scheduled to finalize by the end of 2011. As the Times noted:

In the next weeks and months, Lisa P. Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, is scheduled to establish regulations on smog, mercury, carbon dioxide, mining waste and vehicle emissions that will affect every corner of the economy.

These regulations are all very important to safeguarding public health, protecting the environment, and reducing climate change from the significant impacts of coal and other dirty fuels. But the regulations are also politically controversial, and are triggering a backlash from Republicans, such as Representative Edward Whitfield (R-KY), who have held hearings attacking EPA Administrator Jackson and are proposing legislation to limit the EPA’s authority. As the Times explained:

No other cabinet officer is in as lonely or uncomfortable a position as Ms. Jackson, who has been left, as one adviser put it, behind enemy lines with only science, the law and a small band of loyal lieutenants to support her.

While the White House has largely stood behind Lisa Jackson and supported the important regulations her agency is working on, there is significant political pressure against these regulations. We progressives need to counteract that pressure by voicing our support when the Obama EPA does the right thing, and by urging Congress to let the EPA do its job.

Last week’s finalizing of the CSAPR is a primary example of exactly such doing the right thing that we should publicly support. The CSAPR will require a 73% reduction of sulfur dioxide emissions and a 54% reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions from 2005 levels by 2014. Such reductions will be achieved by numerous coal-fired power plants retiring or installing pollution controls that should have been installed decades ago. And the EPA has estimated the following public health benefits from the regulations:

Estimated Annual Number of Adverse Health Effects Avoided Due to Implementing the CSAPR
Health Effect Number of Cases Avoided
Premature mortality 13,000 to 34,000
Non-fatal heart attacks 15,000
Hospital and emergency department visits 19,000
Accute bronchitis 19,000
Upper and lower respiratory symptoms 420,000
Aggravated asthma 400,000
Days when people miss work or school 1.8 million

Additional regulations that will save even more lives from coal plant pollution are expected to be issued in November 2011. But to make sure this happens, we need to all make it clear that we support EPA’s efforts to save lives and that we want Congress to let the EPA do its job in controlling air pollution and reducing climate change. You can help:

  • Contact your Representatives and Senators and tell them that you support EPA’s common sense efforts to require coal plants to finally clean up their act.
  • Contact the White House and tell them that you support EPA’s finalizing of the CSAPR.
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper editor in support of the EPA and its efforts to protect public health.

If we all take action now, the lives we save may end up being our own.

Cross-posted at Winning Progressive