Strong Carbon Rule for Power Plants Could Reduce Other Pollution, Improve Health, says SU Reseracher

May 28, 2014

Pollution from power plants in other states impacts New York's air, health and environment.

A Syracuse University Researcher is part of a team trying to get the most out of upcoming changes to carbon emissions from power plants.  A new study shows the right regulations could cut pollution that makes people sick, damages crops, and hurts the environment.

The Researchers wanted to get out ahead of a planned policy announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency on proposed rules for carbon emissions of power plants.  Syracuse University’s Doctor Charles Driscoll joined a Harvard Public Health Researcher.  They found the right changes could have multiple benefits over and above carbon reductions to limit climate change.

Decreases in other pollutants that have impacts on human health and ecosystems, particulate matter, which causes problems for asthmatics, increased hospital visits can lead to cardiac arrests.  There can also be impacts on ecosystems like we experience in New York State up in the Adirondacks or Catskills associated with acid deposition, acid rain, and mercury deposition.

EPA has determined power plants are a major source of several kinds of pollutants, in addition to carbon dioxide. Driscoll's research shows many of those could be reduced with more stringent emissions standards.

Driscoll says the E-P-A new rules could be limited to improvements made within power plants…but these extra benefits would occur if the new standards were more flexible.

A flexible program allows states to have trading options among plants or to bring in additional energy sources that have lower emissions to sort of open up the possibilities in terms of flexibility.

The changes come at a time when Driscoll sees a lot of change in the energy industry.

We have a lot of discussion about new extraction techniques about natural gas and oil.  These are changing energy markets.  There’s a lot of interest in renewables for biomass and wind and solar.  So depending on this policy there will be winners and losers in terms of energy and how we manage our energy going forward.

Any changes will have costs to the power plants, but Driscoll’s study shows those can be outweighed by savings in health and the environment.  The E-P-A rules come out June 2nd.