Every citizen on the planet bears a responsibility toward stewardship of the environment. In the United States, we have been blessed by much-improved air and water quality over many decades of dedicated effort. There are, however, practical limits as to how far to push the envelope of “clean.”
A commentary by an Environmental Protection Agency official spoke to newly created rules placed on utilities, primarily targeted at coal-burning power plants (“Clean-air rules will protect Kansas families,” Dec. 4 Opinion). These new regulations fall within the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.
EPA claims it will “protect hundreds of millions of Americans, providing up to $280 billion in benefits by preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths, asthma and heart attacks, and millions of lost days of school or work due to illness,” because of the cleanup of mercury, sulfur and nitrogen oxides, and other emissions.
Exactly where did the EPA come up with these incredible health benefits?
A Wall Street Journal editorial on Dec. 6 noted “the EPA estimates that the benefits to society from the mercury reductions in the utility rule max out at $6.1 million, total, while imposing $11 billion in compliance costs annually” (italics mine).
Can the EPA cite for me, and the rest of Kansans who wish to know, evidence for any individual living within a 25-mile radius of the Jeffrey Energy Center near St. Marys who has experienced respiratory illness as a direct result of the emissions coming from that plant? Has there been a single lost day of school for any student in the St. Marys district due to the emissions coming from that plant? Has anyone lost a day of work as a direct result of emissions coming from that plant?
If and when EPA conducts an epidemiologic study to answer those questions, I predict the answers will be no, no and no. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed that no such studies have been conducted anywhere in Kansas.
Yet EPA officials would have us believe that they will be protecting hundreds of millions of Americans from multiple hazardous substances being emitted and carried downwind to Chicago, Pittsburgh and, of course, New York City and EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. I submit that they would love to have our air quality. There is something very wrong with this picture.
Jeffrey Energy Center (through Westar Energy ratepayers) has invested in excess of $600 million within the past decade to retrofit and materially reduce sulfur oxides by 82 percent and nitrogen oxides by 48 percent, and other particulates that may be in some way challenging the health profiles of residents proximate to the plant. That’s not enough, according to the EPA.
Behind the scenes, EPA claims its models conflict with models of other entities, and that rolling brownouts and blackouts won’t happen next summer as a result of mandatory plant shutdowns. That’s not what has been publicly reported by Westar and many others.
I’ll go with Westar, and the others.