Thursday, January 1, 2015

EPA Clean Power Plan — Comment Submitted

EPA Clean Power Plan — Comment Submitted

December 1, 2014
VIA Electronic Mail
Air and Radiation Docket and Information Center
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Mail Code 2821T
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Re: Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units, Also known as the Clean Power Plan
Docket ID number: EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602
Dear Sir or Madam,
The U.S. Climate and Health Alliance (USCHA) is pleased to submit comments from USCHA and additional health organizations and professionals in response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule entitled “Clean Power Plan” (Docket ID number: EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602).
As health professionals and health professionals-in-training dedicated to improving and protecting the health of the American people, we are alarmed by the serious health impacts and projected mortality from climate change: heat waves; loss of homes, jobs and infrastructure from extreme weather events; worsened allergies and asthma from higher pollen and ground level ozone; and rising levels of insect-borne diseases. We applaud the Obama administration and the EPA for drafting regulations to lower greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants, which are our nation’s largest contribution to global warming. While we wholeheartedly support their intention, we are disappointed with the product. The proposed rule falls short of the rapid transition to clean energy that is necessary to prevent a catastrophic increase in global temperature.
The IPCC 5 Assessment Report makes it clear that to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees C, developed countries must lead the way with rapid emissions reductions, on the order of 50% by 2030 and 80-100% by 2050 (IPCC 2014). Numerous studies have documented the technologic and economic feasibility of the U.S. meeting this challenge (NREL 2012, Jacobson and Delucci 2009 & 2011) yet the Clean Power Plan would only decrease power sector emissions by15%. We can and must do better.
The Clean Power Plan’s goals for states underestimate our capacity to expand clean energy and energy efficiency. These goals are, in many cases, lower than pre-existing targets of state renewable portfolios and efficiency standards, equal to what states have already achieved, and only minimally higher than U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projections under a “business as usual” scenario (UCS 2014, C2ES 2014)  We agree with the UCS and Sierra Club recommendations for inclusion of current state Renewable Energy and Efficiency Standards, which are set by law, and determination of future goals based on more recent growth rates (2009 to 2013).
Increasing efficiency of buildings, which account for almost 40% of U.S. energy use, is our most cost effective method of lowering GHG emissions. Commercially available technology, made affordable by on-bill financing, could increase energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings by at least 30% by 2030 (Houser, 2013). Health care providers are acutely aware of the health benefits of achieving high energy efficiency and lower energy costs especially for low income Americans.
We are also concerned about how the rules define “clean power” and the plan’s heavy reliance on conversion from coal to natural gas. Natural gas obtained by hydraulic fracturing is not clean from a public health or climate perspective. Fracking is associated with local and regional air pollution (Ahmadi 2014, McKenzie 2012), adverse birth outcomes (McKenzie 2014) and contamination of drinking water (Warner 2013, Parker 2014, Vengosh, 2014, Ingraffea 2014).  We question the metrics used by the EPA to predict the effectiveness of this strategy. Emission estimates should encompass the entire life cycle instead of just carbon emissions from the smokestack. It may also be necessary to differentiate between fracking and conventional drilling, since these extraction methods have different carbon intensities (Howarth 2011).
The rule also misstates methane’s 100-year Global Warming Potential (GWP), which was upgraded by the IPCC in 2013 from 25 to 34 (IPCC 2013). Given the need for rapid GHG reductions to protect health and the plan’s goal to lower emissions by 2030, the 20-year GWP, at 84, is more relevant (Chapin, 2014). Regardless of which GWP is used, measurements of methane over gas fields suggest that leaks are large enough to eliminate any advantage over coal (Miller 2013, Karion 2013, PSE Healthy Energy 2014, Schneising 2014) even without inclusion of leaks in pipelines and storage facilities. We realize that EPA intends to address methane emissions from oil and gas development in the future but are pessimistic that discrepancies in measurement can be resolved and adequate reductions achieved during the time frame of the Clean Power Plan. Economic analyses predict that increased exploitation of natural gas will not result in lower greenhouse gas emissions in the absence of carbon pricing because low cost will increase demand and discourage investment in clean energy (McJeon 2014).
While we appreciate the need for state flexibility, the plan’s building blocks are not equal in terms of environmental impact and climate change mitigation and should be weighted accordingly. Air pollution from all fossil fuel fired power plants is hazardous to our health, causing heart attacks, asthma, cancer, and increased rates of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths. (Krewski 2000, Pope 2004, Pearson 2010, Nishimura 2013). The greatest health impacts occur in communities closest to power plants and contribute to the significant health disparities, which affect low income areas and communities of color. While less polluting than coal, gas fired power plants still degrade local air quality by emitting nitrogen oxides and fine particulates, thus perpetuating these inequalities. Clean energy makes a better neighbor.
The Clean Power Plan underestimates the health co-benefits of efficiency and clean energy over natural gas because it fails to account for future increases in wildfires and ground level ozone resulting from climate change (Sheffield 2011, Dennison 2014, Tao 2007).  Recent studies show that health savings from clean air would more than cover the cost of conversion from fossil fuel to clean energy (West 2013, Thompson 2014). On the other hand, construction of new gas fired plants and supporting infrastructure will lock us into continued fossil fuel combustion for the next 40 years and divert capital investment away from long term solutions. We strongly advocate that a higher value should be placed on building blocks that improve public health by promoting energy efficiency and clean energy than the valuation of building blocks that have lesser or opposite effects.
Finally we have great concern about the Clean Power Plan’s incentives to extend the operation of aging nuclear reactors by crediting continued operation of plants scheduled for decommission as emissions reduction. Nuclear plants produce radioactive hazardous waste for which we have no safe long-term repository. Leaks from “temporary” storage; accidents, which are more likely in older reactors; sea level rise; damage from seismic and extreme weather events; terrorist acts; and diversion of radioactive materials for weapons production all have the potential to expose large populations to dangerous levels of radiation. These risks to public health are unacceptable. We have safer, more affordable and sustainable alternatives.
The EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal is a move in the right direction, but we urge you to aim higher and establish emission reduction goals and incentives more consistent with climate stabilization, environmental justice, and public health.
Sincerely yours,

US Climate and Health Alliance

Eric Lerner
Health Care Without Harm

Linda Rudolph, MD,MPH
Center for Climate Change and Health, Public Health Institute

Catherine Thomasson, MD
Physicians for Social Responsibility

Jennifer Miller, PhD
Center for Climate Change and Health, Public Health Institute

Deborah Payne, MPH
Kentucky Environmental Foundation

Teresa Mendez-Quigley, MSW, LSW
Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadephia

Kathleen Masis, MD

Ed Maibach, PhD
Center for Climate Change Communication

Wendy Ring, MD, MPH
Climate 911

Barbara Warren, MD, MPH
PSR, Arizona

Robert Alfich, MD
Tulane University (for identification purposes only)

Leslie Allsopp, MSN, MPH
University of North Texas (for identification purposes only)

Laura Anderko, PhD RN
Georgetown University (for identification purposes only)

Holly Atkinson, MD
Arnhold Global Health Institute at Mount SInai, New York (for identification purposes only)

Nahiris Bahamon, MD candidate
Boston University School of Medicine (for identification purposes only)

Molly Beyer, MPH
University of North Texas (for identification purposes only)

María Christina Blanco
City Life/Vida Urbana (for identification purposes only)

Richard Bruno, MD
John Hopkins University (for identification purposes only)

Kevin Burns, MD
John Hopkins University (for identification purposes only)

Robert Byron, MD, MPH
Bighorn Valley Health Center (for identification purposes only)

Carla Campbell, MD, MPH
Drexel University (for identification purposes only)

Stephanie Chalupka, RN,  EdD
Worcester State University (for identification purposes only)

Robyn Gilden, PhD, RN
Alliance for Nurses for a Healthy Environment (for identification purposes only)

Solange Gould, DrPH (c), MPH
Public Health Institute (for identification purposes only)

Maggie Grabow, PhD, MPH
University of Wisconsin (for identification purposes only)

Lydia Greiner, APRN
Fairfield University (for identification purposes only)

Andy Harris, MD
Oregon PSR (for identification purposes only)

Robert Harrison, MD, MPH
University of California, San Francisco (for identification purposes only)

Richard Jennings, MD
American Psychiatric Association (for identification purposes only)

Noel Jette
Women’s Mental Health Collective (for identification purposes only)

Adrienne Katner, PhD
Louisiana State University Health Sciences Ctr (for identification purposes only)

John Kaufman, MPH
CA Department of Public Health (for identification purposes only)

Nancy Krieger, PhD
Harvard School of Public Health (for identification purposes only)

Gail Lee, RD, REHS, MS
UCSF (for identification purposes only)

Colleen Lynch, MD
Mount Sinai Medical Center (for identification purposes only)

Neil Maizlish, PhD
CA Department of Public Health (for identification purposes only)

Bryon Mal, PhD
University of California-Los Angeles (for identification purposes only)

Michael Martin, MD
University of California, San Francisco (for identification purposes only)

Tim McCalmont, MD
University of California (for identification purposes only)

Ruth McDermott-Levy, PhD, RN
Villanova University (for identification purposes only)

Heather McGuinness, MPH
University of Washington (for identification purposes only)

MaryAnne Mercer, DrPH
University of Washington (for identification purposes only)

Milene Morfei, PhD
Wells College (for identification purposes only)

Thomas Newman, MD, MPH
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Pediatrics, UCSF (for identification purposes only)

Cora Roelofs, ScD
Tufts University (for identification purposes only)

Kenneth Rosenberg, MD, MPH
Oregon Department of Public Health (for identification purposes only)

Rachel Rubin, MD, MPH
Cook County Department of Public Health (for identification purposes only)

Karin Russ, MS, RN
Collaborative for Health in the Environment (for identification purposes only)

Susan Ryan, PhD, MD
University of California, San Francisco (for identification purposes only)

Luisa Saffiotti, PhD
Psychologists for Social Responsibility (for identification purposes only)

Mona Sarfaty, MD MPH
George Mason University (for identification purposes only)

Amy Schulz, PhD, MPH
University of Michigan School of Public Health (for identification purposes only)

Lucinda Serrano, BS
University of Illinois at Chicago (for identification purposes only)

Perry Sheffield, MD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (for identification purposes only)

Jonathan Smith, PhD
George Washington University (for identification purposes only)

Susan Spieler, PsyD
Psychologists for Social Responsibility (for identification purposes only)

Theodora Tsongas, PhD, MS
American Public Health Association Climate Change & Health Workgroup (for identification purposes only)

Carmen Velez, PhD
Universidad de Puerto Rico (for identification purposes only)

Annee von Borg, MSW, MPH
Resources for Health (for identification purposes only)

Mark Vossler, MD
Physicians for Social Responsibility (for identification purposes only)

Jennifer Wang, MS
Health Care Without Harm (for identification purposes only)

Ellen Weber, MD
University of California San Francisco (for identification purposes only)

Steve Wing, PhD
University of North Carolina (for identification purposes only)

Alan Zaslavsky, PhD
Harvard Medical School (for identification purposes only)

Rosemary Ahtuangaruak
Jenny Allen
Mary Anglin, PhD, MPH
Carole Baraldi, Ed.D, RN
Blake Bennett
Michaela Brennan, RN,MPH
Pat Cantwell
Donna Carr, MD
Martha Davis, PhD
Kathy Dervin, MPH
Stephanie Dittmer, MD
Martin Donohoe, MD
Michelle Eckman, MS
Janet Eddy, MD
Cathey Falvo, MD, MPH
Nancy Feinstein, PhD
Laura Fenster, PhD
June Fisher, MD
Erica Frank, MD, MPH
Emily Franzosa, MA
Corinne Frugoni, MD
Megan Galeucia, MPH (expected 2015)
Amy Hagopian, PhD
Linda Helland, MPH, CPH
Wendy Johnson, MD, MPH
Timothy Kelly, MPH (expected 2015)
Barry Keppard, AICP
Julie Kiser, MD
Bob Kohl, MPH
Stacy Kreger, RN, MPH
Jolanta Kruszelnicka
Michelle Lackovic, MPH
Sharon LaSollette
Martha Livingston, PhD
Maggie Mann, BS
Heather McCabe, MSW, JD
Cheryl Mcdaniel, RN,BSN
Susan Miller, MD
Mark Mitchell, MD
Muliana Muhiddin, MD
Padmini Murthy, MD, MPH
Melvin Myers, MPA
Debra Pelto, MPH, PhD
Liz Perrera, MPH
Terry Raymer, MD
Chris Rea, PhD, MPH
Colleen Reid, PhD
Jonathan Ross, MD
Monika Roy, BS
Leonard Rubenstein, JD
Elizabeth Samuels, MD, MPH
Susan Schnall, RN, FACHE
Elizabeth Schenk, PhD, MHI, RN
Pat Serio, MSN, CNM, RN
Eve Shapiro, MD
Glenn Siegfried, MD
Eve Shapiro, MD
Michael Soman, MD
Bill Sothern
Andy Stamp
Amanda Sudhu
Patrice Sutton, MPH
Melissa Ta, MPH
Maggie Thelen
Eryka Thorley
Theodora Tsongas, PhD, MS
Anne Valentine, MPH
Lily Walkover
Wiist, DHSc
Daniel Woo, MPH, MS
Robin Yang
Niki Yerkes
Emily York, MPH

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