Setting strong standards for climate-changing carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants would produce an added benefit in Ohio: cleaner and healthier air.
That was the message researchers at Syracuse University and the Harvard School of Public Health pushed Tuesday with the release of their “Carbon Co-Benefits Research.”
The study comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to release its first limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. Those guidelines, which would enable states to draft the emission limits, are expected Monday.
Power plants produce about 40 percent of carbon emissions in the United States.
Parties on both sides in the long-simmering environmental debate are weighing in.
The powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce has scheduled a teleconference for today. The Natural Resources Defense Council, a national eco-group, has scheduled its teleconference Thursday.
FirstEnergy on Tuesday declined to comment until any limits are announced.
Ohio would be the No. 1 beneficiary for greatest average improvement under stronger and more stringent clean-air carbon rules, said Charles Driscoll of Syracuse University.
Such rules would mean less fine particulate pollution, along with less sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury going into the air in the Ohio Valley, he said in a teleconference.
That could reduce the health threat to the public from the four pollutants, said Jonathan Buonocore of the Harvard School of Public Health.
Particulates can cause heart and lung problems; ozone and nitrogen oxide cause breathing issues; sulfur dioxide contributes to acid rain; and mercury can pollute fish and threaten humans.
The air would be cleaner in the 48 contiguous states, with the biggest reductions in particulate and ozone pollution in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Colorado and Alabama, the study reported.
For sulfur and nitrogen pollution, the biggest cuts would be seen in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
The researchers looked at three scenarios.
The one producing the cleanest air would cut sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions by 27 percent, nitrogen oxide emissions by 22 percent and carbon emissions from power plants by 35 percent by 2020. It would reduce pollutants in the air by 775,000 tons a year by 2020, Driscoll said.
The report is available at http://eng-cs.syr.edu/carboncobenefits.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or firstname.lastname@example.org.