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GUEST COMMENTARY: New EPA standards give kids a fighting chance

Thursday, June 5, 2014 | 12:45 p.m. CDT

As dire warnings from climate scientists continue to escalate and extreme weather events become increasingly common, the Obama administration’s new proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants couldn’t be more important or timely.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new standards won’t just take a big bite out of climate disruption. They’ll also reduce the pollution in the form of soot, smog, and mercury that threatens our health, air and water.

This new standard gives my 4-year-old daughter, and all today’s kids, a fighting chance at a safe and promising future.

We are the last generation of people who have the chance to turn the corner on climate disruption. Our children deserve an opportunity to breathe clean air and drink clean water, to enjoy snow days and fishing trips.

I don’t want them to face more massive wildfires, droughts, superstorms, food insecurity, and all the other disastrous outcomes that our climate crisis could bring. As parents, we all want a better life for our children, and we now have to stand together to deliver that for them.

For decades, dirty power plants have been allowed to dump unlimited amounts of carbon into our air, making them our single biggest source of pollution that’s pushing our climate to the brink.

Right now, air pollution is making our children sick and costing us billions of dollars every year. Some dirty and desperate companies would like to keep it that way, which is why they’re spending big to try and stop these standards from crossing the finish line.

These aren’t just costs to our health. Our wallets are being strained too. The federal government spent $136 billion coping with extreme weather between 2011 and 2013. And 2012 was the second-most expensive year in U.S. history for natural disasters.

Curbing carbon pollution from power plants will save up to $93 billion. More importantly, it will save lives. The EPA’s new standards may prevent up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children.

This initiative will also spur innovation and accelerate the emergence of a new economy powered by sustainable energy sources.

This transition is already creating a growing number of good jobs. For example, employment in the solar industry grew 20 percent last year — there are now more than 142,000 Americans working in the solar business. And the U.S. wind industry employs more than 50,000 people.

That’s why the Sierra Club and our 2.4 million members and supporters stand with President Barack Obama and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in this move to cut harmful carbon pollution. It will save lives, boost our economy and help American families thrive.

The American people are already embracing these latest safeguards. A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that a clear majority of us support these carbon standards. Even people in so-called red states are on board.

We can’t afford to wait. As McCarthy said: “Given the astronomical price we pay for climate inaction, the most costly thing we can do is to do nothing.”

Mary Anne Hitt is the director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Distributed via OtherWords.org.


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