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DEP: Capping Carbon Pollution Would Save Hundreds of Lives, Billions of Dollars

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Cutting carbon dioxide pollution from power plants would save hundreds of lives and billions of dollars in Pennsylvania, according to new analysis from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Governor Tom Wolf has made reducing air pollution from power plants by participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) a top climate priority. Participating in the program would also drive up economic activity in Pennsylvania by billions of dollars and create tens of thousands of jobs, DEP officials said in a press release issued Wednesday.

The analysis by DEP, using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) methodology, shows that participating in RGGI could save the lives of 639 Pennsylvanians by 2030 thanks to lower carbon emissions as well as lower emissions of other air pollutants associated with electricity generation like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. In addition to saving lives, adults and children will have more opportunities to work and play without fear of respiratory complications.

“We know that cleaner sources of energy are good for the environment, but this helps quantify the benefits to people’s health as well,” DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell said in the release. “With more than 90,000 of our fellow Pennsylvanians diagnosed with COVID-19, which affects breathing among other things, it is even more clear that we must be doing more to eliminate air pollution. The data is clear that cutting air pollution by participating in RGGI will save people’s lives – full stop.”

Economic modeling shows that participating in RGGI will lead to a net increase of more than 27,000 jobs and add $1.9 billion to the Gross State Product in Pennsylvania, according to DEP.

The full analysis will be presented to the Environmental Quality Board (EQB) along with the rest of the regulatory analysis, which details the total costs and benefits of participating in RGGI. These estimates do not include jobs created as a result of investments of RGGI revenues.

Pennsylvania is projected to receive more than $300 million a year in proceeds from RGGI auctions. The Wolf Administration intends to use these revenues to fund job creation and retention programs, including new workforce development opportunities, energy efficiency improvements for businesses and homeowners, economic support for communities affected by changing electricity generation and usage, and clean energy sources.

Other health-related benefits include:

  1. More than $6 billion worth of health benefits through 2030 from reduced sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides pollution

  2. More than 45,000 fewer asthma attacks for children aged 6-18

  3. More than 1,000 fewer cases of childhood bronchitis for children aged 8-12

DEP used EPA’s Incidence-Per-Ton (IPT) and Benefit-Per-Ton (BPT) methodology to determine the figures, as well as modeling data that was conducted for DEP.

“An argument against reducing air pollution through RGGI is an argument for making people sick,” said McDonnell. “The benefits to communities that have fewer Code Orange Air Quality days to worry about, or to parents that won’t have to worry that they may need to take their kid to the emergency room for an asthma attack, cannot be understated.”

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