The news yesterday that the lawsuits by Clinton against coal-fired power plants hit a legal roadblock is bad. Very bad. Nothing as exciting as the Michael Jackson verdict, mind you, but bad. If you want an extremely vivid picture of just how bad, go read this post on Sprol. It contains this tidbit:

Pollution from coal-burning power plants causes an estimated 30,000 deaths a year in the United States – more than drunken driving, AIDS, or homicides, according to one analysis. That analysis was done by Abt Associates … Abt has been used by the EPA to quantify the health effects of federal policies.

See also this edition of BushGreenwatch about maximum achievable control technologies (MACT). The Bush administration has been scrambling to weaken the regs on MACT in the Clean Air Act ever since it took office. Just in regard to its change in the rules on industrial boilers and plywood manufacturing plants:

A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), a nonpartisan organization that monitors enforcement of environmental laws, states that EPA’s own data shows that the new boiler exemptions alone will result in tens of tons of fine-particle pollution that would otherwise be prevented. This will trigger an estimated minimum of $1.7 billion in annual public health costs, while saving industry about $170 million.

“They’re willing to charge the public $10 to save industry one dollar,” says EIP Executive Director Eric Schaeffer, who resigned in protest two years ago from his post as director of EPA’s Office of Regulatory Enforcement. “That will cost the public in premature deaths, hospitalizations, and asthma attacks.”

According to EPA data, application of the original boiler MACT rules would prevent over 2,200 premature deaths, more than 173,000 asthma attacks and nearly 197,000 childhood cases of upper respiratory complications a year. The new MACT exemptions will lead annually to more than 200 premature deaths, over 17,000 asthma attacks and nearly 20,000 cases of upper respiratory problems in young children with asthma.

I can’t help but think that this is one of those issues where education really is the key. If it was common knowledge among the American public that a relatively small number of industrial facilities was generating a substantial portion of the nation’s air pollution and killing tens of thousands of children a year — aided and abetted by a friendly administration — people would be pissed.

The public pays millions of dollars in healthcare costs for damages caused by these industries — it’s a straightforward transfer of wealth, from public into private hands.

Defenders of this madness cite the "burden" to industry if it had to spend money on better pollution controls (which exist, and have been used and proven effective). But don’t you think $1.7 billion in health care costs is a "burden" to the economy?

In this case, as with almost every other, the "environment vs. the economy" dichotomy is rankest bullshit. What we have is a narrow economic sector being protected by its political cronies at vast cost to the commonwealth and common health.