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Clean Wisconsin: Health benefits of EPA's Clean Power Plan far outweigh costs

By Keith Reopelle
August 8, 2015

The EPA's Clean Power Plan is a long overdue, reasonable approach to cutting carbon pollution from power plants. It will save lives, stimulate our economy, help residents and businesses save money, and let children with asthma breathe easier.

According to the American Lung Association, nearly half of all Americans live in areas where the air is unsafe to breathe. The Clean Power Plan will prevent as many as 150,000 asthma attacks, 1,700 heart attacks and 3,600 premature deaths annually by 2030. The public health benefits will total from $34 billion to $54 billion per year, far outweighing the costs.

Fortunately, we don't have to choose between healthy communities and a healthy economy. In a state where we spend more than $12 billion annually importing fossil fuels, Wisconsin's carbon-pollution reduction goal is doable and moderate relative to those of other states.

What's more, Wisconsin already has infrastructure and businesses in place, ready to excel under the Clean Power Plan and transition us to newer, cleaner technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal, bioenergy and energy efficiency. This includes more than 350 manufacturing businesses, such as Manitowoc's Broadwind Energy, that make component parts for solar and wind systems, and hundreds of businesses providing energy efficiency products and services, such as Milwaukee's Johnson Controls. The Clean Power Plan will allow these companies to expand, add workers and fire up Wisconsin's economy.

Climate deniers will say that this transition toward a cleaner energy future will cost too much, but the truth is, we can't afford not to make the transition. The EPA estimates that the cost for the entire nation to comply with the Clean Power Plan will be less than $2 per person per year between now and 2030, when the final limits come into effect. At the same time, in addition to all the health benefits, it will save families more than $7 a month on their electrical bills. And it will do all that while adding jobs and helping us compete with other states and nations already ahead of the curve.

It's important to note that we can achieve all these benefits without sacrificing affordable, reliable energy. The Clean Power Plan allows states the flexibility they need to develop customized plans, meaning we can forge our own path forward in the way that works best for Wisconsin.

Detractors will say that nothing we do in the United States will make a difference because China burns more coal. We've already seen that when we take the global lead with bold action, China and others will follow. For example, after President Obama announced the Clean Power Plan last year, China announced its first-ever reduction in coal plant emissions.

Power plants have been allowed to pollute our air with unlimited amounts of dangerous carbon for decades. The sooner we cut carbon, the sooner Wisconsin will reap the rewards in our pocketbooks, our communities and our economy.

We can do this. Now is the time to limit carbon.

Keith Reopelle is the senior policy director for Clean Wisconsin; 634 W. Main St., No. 300, Madison, WI 53703; 608-251-7020; email [email protected].