smokestackGood news! Today the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a safeguard that will improve the lives of millions of Americans. The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will protect families and communities from the dangerous air pollution spewed out by coal-fired power plants. If you have a child with asthma or a loved one at risk of a heart attack, you can breathe easier today, because these new protections will decrease the chances that they will end up in the emergency room.

Specifically, the new protections will reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, dangerous pollutants that form soot and smog and contribute to poor air quality days and respiratory illnesses affecting millions of Americans. (How much does coal affect your life?)

Growing up just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I remember days when the air was so smoggy that you couldn’t see the mountain views (a big threat to our tourism-based economy), and it was actually dangerous to your health to go hiking! The pollution came from coal-fired power plants in the Tennessee and Ohio Valleys. Thanks to these new protections, there will soon be fewer smoggy days in the Smokies and across the eastern U.S.

They call this the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule because it curbs the millions of tons of air pollution that travel downwind and across state lines each year. Pollution doesn’t stop at the border, so we’re pleased that the EPA is acting to help states be good neighbors by reducing air pollution that drifts across state lines. The areas with the most cleanup to do will also realize the most benefits so that no state will bear an unfair burden.

We also applaud the EPA’s science-based approach and its decision to include Texas for both ozone and fine particulates, based on its new analyses that Texas’ air pollution has a major impact on downwind states.

The safeguard will help towns and cities meet clean air standards and reduce the pollution that not only endangers lives, but also costs Americans billions in health costs. The EPA estimates that in just the first two years of enforcement, these protections will save up to 34,000 lives, prevent more than 19,000 emergency room visits, prevent 1.8 million missed work and school days, and improve the lives of millions. To find out the local health effects of air pollution from coal plants in your town, just enter your zip code into our new interactive map.

Even better: The benefits of the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule also greatly outweigh costs of implementation, saving Americans as much as $280 billion and costing only $2.4 billion annually. 

This is a long overdue and much-needed action. It has been in the works for over a decade, so industry has had plenty of time to prepare for these new safeguards. It’s great to see EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson taking yet another stand for clean air and the health of our families.