How’s this for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fulfilling its role to protect environmental and public health: On Tuesday, EPA proposed a rule that would prevent between 14,000 and 36,000 premature deaths annually.

The Transport Rule would set stronger emissions standards for the dangerous air pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants in the eastern United States. This new rule would replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which had been struck down by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2008.

While a thorough review and comment period remains to be completed, this is a positive step forward for people who want clean air.

The harmful pollution coal-fired power plants emit into the air does not just endanger people in the immediate vicinity of the plant. Pollution from coal plants is carried downwind, endangering people throughout the entire eastern United States.

This rule addresses the reality that dangerous pollution doesn’t recognize state borders. Just as the oil gusher has now hit every Gulf state, the pollution from coal-fired power plants drifts downwind into people’s lungs throughout a region – hence why another way of talking about this rule is as a ‘Good Neighbor’ rule.

Coupled with other EPA rules, the Transport Rule will achieve a 71% reduction in sulfur dioxide and a 52% reduction in nitrogen oxide from 2005 levels in the states the rule applies to. 

These pollutants covered by this rule are precursors to ozone, which is incredibly dangerous to human health. Pollutants like ozone and particulate matter (better known as smog and soot) from coal-fired pollution have been found to cause respiratory illness (including asthma and bronchitis), as well as aggravation of existing cardiovascular disease. It is absolutely essential that EPA do everything in its power to limit the damage these pollutants do to millions of people throughout the United States.

The statistics published with the rule make a very compelling case. According to EPA, the Transport Rule would yield up to $290 billion in annual health benefits, ‘including avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms.’

This is a great step from EPA to clean up the air. We will stay engaged throughout this process to ensure people’s health and welfare are protected.