PSE Healthy Energy, in partnership with NextGen Climate America, has produced two reports analyzing the health and equity impacts of fossil fuel power plants in Pennsylvania and Ohio – two of the heaviest carbon pollution emitters in the United States – and the potential to mitigate some of these impacts while cutting carbon emissions under the Clean Power Plan.
The PSE team analyzed environmental justice data and environmental and health impacts of power generation regulated under the Clean Power Plan in these states. The resulting technical reports underlie the “Our Air” reports, which inform the public and decision-makers about the impacts of electricity generation and the potential health, environment and equity co-benefits from changing our energy resource mix.
These reports find that dirty power plants have devastating consequences for communities in their states and nationwide, including 4,400 deaths and $38 billion in health impacts in 2015 alone. These coal and natural gas power plants are disproportionately located in vulnerable and low income areas across these two states. The EPA requires that Clean Power Plan compliance does not increase burdens on vulnerable and overburdened communities, but beyond this requirement, a carefully designed compliance plan has potential to decrease burdens on these very communities.
Some of the top-line findings of the report are:
- Primary and secondary particulate matter pollution from power plants contributes to thousands of deaths and other health impacts a year, primarily attributable to coal plant stack emissions. A multi-pollutant approach to Clean Power Plan compliance can achieve health benefits by targeting carbon emission reductions at plants with high criteria pollutant emission rates.
- Existing power plants in Pennsylvania typically located in low-income communities, and natural gas plants even more so than coal and furthermore in more urban communities of color. They also had higher rates of violations than coal plants.
- In Ohio, existing coal and natural gas plants and planned natural gas plants are disproportionately located in low-income communities.
- If Pennsylvania & Ohio reduce coal-fired generation to meet Clean Power Plan requirements by increasing natural gas-fired generation, there is potential that generation will increase near vulnerable and overburdened communities. Efficiency and renewables can instead be used to reduce carbon emissions without shifting burdens onto these communities.
The full reports, executive summaries, and NextGen Climate America’s public-facing version of the reports on Pennsylvania are all available for download below. Our work on Ohio is available here.