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Issues Of The Environment: Seeking Air Quality Improvement In Southeast Michigan

Jan 10, 2018

Air Pollution
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

The federal government plans to end the Clean Power Plan, and that may have negative consequences on the environment.  In this week's "Issues of the Environment," WEMU's David Fair talks to Kindra Weid, Coalition Coordinator for MI Air MI Health, about how Southeast Michigan's air quality could be impacted by this executive action.


Overview

   ·  In March 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to dismantle the Clean Power Plan (CPP).  The plan, which President Barack Obama’s administration put into effect in 2015, was designed to cut power plant emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that is warming the planet. 

   ·  Co-benefits of the Clean Power Plan’s reduction in CO2 output include reductions in fine particulate matter, ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead, and carbon monoxide.  Each of these air pollutants is known to harm human health, and they are attributed to thousands of premature deaths in the United States each year.

   ·  Transitioning from dependence on fossil fuels (coal, natural gas) to renewable sources (solar, wind, etc...) for power generation is key to improving air quality.  This is especially true in regions of heavy industry, like southeast Michigan, where poor health and premature death that are associated with dirty air are higher than national averages.

   ·  Kindra Weid, Coalition Coordinator for MI Air MI Health, says the latest studies* are showing that clean energy production has become cost competitive with traditional fossil-fuel power generation, and when you factor in the costs associated with health, clean energy comes out ahead.  DTE has stated that burning coal is becoming economically inviable, and they are decommissioning coal plants in favor of cheaper natural gas, which Kindra points out shares a pollution profile with coal, just at lower levels.  She also says, “The cheapest energy is energy we don’t use.” (*Note: this study was financed by energy investment groups, and it clearly shows that solar has become economically competitive with natural gas.  The study did NOT factor in health costs.)

   ·  Kindra says that for air quality to improve, we can no longer rely on the federal government or EPA for solutions, but there is hope at the state and local levels.  She says meaningful bipartisan legislation was passed in Michigan this past year, and local municipalities, including Ann Arbor, have successfully enacted ordinances that address air quality.  Ann Arbor adopted an anti-idling ordinance in the summer of 2017.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu