Friday, June 10, 2016

Harvard Study Finds $38 Billion Economic Benefit from EPA’s Carbon Rule

In this March 16, 2011, file photo, exhaust rises from smokestacks in front of piles of coal in Thompsons, Texas. A federal appeals court on Tuesday ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to relax some limits it set on smokestack emissions that cross state lines and taint downwind areas with air pollution from power plants they can't control. (Photo Credit: AP/David J. Phillip, File) Click to Enlarge
When the Environmental Protection Agency published a rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants last year, critics quickly said the plan was too economically costly for businesses and home electricity bills.  But now, a new study led by researchers from Harvard University finds that nearly all regions of the U.S. stand to gain economically from a power plant carbon standard like the Clean Power Plan, and do so fairly quickly.

Using a scenario that somewhat resembles the Clean Power Plan (CPP) — a policy moderately stringent and highly flexible — researchers calculated net benefits of some $38 billion a year, according to the study published Wednesday in the online journal PLOS ONE.

“Health benefits would outweigh the estimated costs of the carbon standard in our study for 13 out of 14 power sector regions within five years of implementation, even though we only looked at a subset of the total benefits,” said lead author Jonathan Buonocore, research associate and program leader at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard’s public health school.  The one region that benefits less is the Pacific Northwest, Buonocore told ThinkProgress.  That’s because the burden to air quality from electricity generation in that region is fairly low compared to the rest of the country.  States there rely more heavily on hydroelectric plants, and have less to do to comply with the CPP.  Other regions that include states like West Virginia or Ohio rely more on fossil fuel electricity, meaning there is more carbon pollution to cut.

Buonocore said the region that encompasses West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania benefits the most from lower power plant emissions.  These states “experience the greatest improvement in air quality and they also have a reasonably high population … so there is a lot of people that experience health benefits due to the implementation of this carbon standard.” These three states together hold some 25 million people.

Fossil fuel-fired power plants make up about 31 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — largely carbon dioxide emissions.  Reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants can have public health “co-benefits,” according to the study, by simultaneously decreasing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, and particulate matter emissions — tiny particles that can harm the heart and lungs.

Read more at Harvard Study Finds $38 Billion Economic Benefit from EPA’s Carbon Rule

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