President Donald Trump picked West Virginia to announce his plan to reduce pollution controls on coal-fired power plants, which is no surprise.
West Virginia loves coal, and coal miners love Trump, but what both of them may not love is the fact that a reduction in pollution controls is going to greatly increase the number of people who die prematurely from pollution created by burning coal. It will also greatly increase the number of people who get sick with serious illnesses such as heart and lung problems.
When he made his announcement somehow Trump left out those details of the life-threatening side-effects of using coal to create electrical energy.
Even though they will be getting sick and dying at higher rates, it is not expected that Trump’s actions will reduce his popularity among West Virginians.
An analysis done by his own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concludes that the rollback of Obama-era pollution controls will lead to many more people dying and suffering health problems that they otherwise would not have.
Clean-air controls since the 1980’s stopped the columns of black soot that used to rise from coal smokestacks in the region. The clean air rules reduced the number of people dying from coal-fired power plants substantially.
Technology has changed, and now pollutants rise from smokestacks as gases before solidifying into invisible particles small enough to pass through lungs and into bloodstreams.
An EPA analysis says those pollutants would increase under Trump’s plan, when compared to what would happen under the Obama rules. This will result in many thousands of more heart attacks, asthma problems and other illnesses than would have happened without Trump’s new rules.
The EPA says up to 1,500 more people will die each year under Trump’s plan. And the areas that will be hit the hardest are in Trump country — the coal mining regions of West Virginia. There could be dozens of new deaths and hundreds of new serious illnesses each year because of Trump’s plan.
Obama’s Clean Power Plan targeted climate-changing carbon dioxide and would have curbed harmful emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the coal-fired power plants. It would have increased federal regulation of emissions from the nation’s electrical grid and broadly promoted natural gas, solar power and other cleaner energy.
Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy program will dismantle President Barack Obama’s 2015 Clean Power Plan which has not yet been implemented due to court battles.
Trump’s plan will give up much of the federal oversight of existing coal-fired power plants. Not only that, but the government will no longer promote cleaner energy. Individual states will decide how much to regulate coal power plants in their own states.
At his public announcement Trump said “I’m getting rid of some of these ridiculous rules and regulations, which are killing our companies … and our jobs.”
There was no mention of the increases in harmful emissions that would result, compared to the Obama plan, or the health risks.
In West Virginia, coal is popular, and politicians who support coal get elected.
Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition was protesting outside Trump’s rally.
“Our state is beholden to coal. Our politicians are beholden to coal. Meanwhile, our people are being poisoned,” she said.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.