Republican Senator Rand Paul is currently attempting to repeal one of the newest pieces of the four-decade-old Clean Air Act. So far he’s sponsored a piece of legislation that seeks to eliminate the Cross State Air Pollution Rule instituted in July and set to take effect next year. The rule states that power plants in 28 states must take action to reduce or eliminate emissions that contribute to fine particle and ozone pollution in other states by instituting technology readily available on the market. The rule will help eliminate up to 34,000 premature deaths and almost a million other illnesses caused by this pollution. Sen. Paul has decided that this legislation will be disastrous to the economy and must be done away with. The Obama Administration has counter attacked with statistics that say the act will actually pull in about $100 billion in net benefits each year.
What Sen. Paul, his cosponsors (Republicans Sen, John Cornyn (TX), Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT) and Sen. Mike Johanns (NE)) and their supporters are undoubtedly referring to is the possibility that retrofits to power plants might raise the current cost of power by a small fraction. Though this could be a side effect — it hasn’t been officially stated yet — the financial benefits of reducing pollution are immense. Pollution from power plants causes hundreds of thousands of respiratory illnesses nationwide, contributes to hundreds of thousands of cases of asthma, bronchitis, heart attacks and causes millions of people to miss work days because of these illnesses. These unwanted side effects of pollution put a huge financial strain on our already overworked healthcare system and our workforce — which is already in a precarious position given the state of the economy.
This is all in addition to the environmental costs that in many cases end up being financial burdens on local communities when pollution contaminating local waterways and ecosystems must be cleaned up. Though Sen. Paul and his team are correct in saying that the rule will cost our country millions to enact and sustain — approximately $800 million in projected costs for 2014 — the financial benefits of the rule are many times larger. It is projected the rule could save $120 to $280 billion in health and environmental costs as well as save thousands of lives each year.