Last week, the Trump Environmental Protection Agency took steps to eliminate the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever standards controlling carbon dioxide from power-generating plants. Before the Clean Power Plan rules were adopted, there were no limits on the amount of carbon pollution that power plants could dump into the atmosphere.

Here in Maine, where we have no coal-fired power plants and an increasing percentage of our energy generation comes from renewable resources, this may not feel dire. After all, this is Vacationland. “The way life should be” is our informal motto. Our air is pretty clean and this is an issue for the industrial states.


In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. There’s another slogan commonly attached to Maine: “The tailpipe of the nation.” That’s because upwind air pollution from Northeastern cities and Midwestern coal plants blows here. Maine senators have long understood this, which is why Edmund Muskie and George Mitchell championed the creation and strengthening of the Clean Air Act. They knew that our air quality depends on strong federal pollution regulations on plants from away. Any attempts to weaken those standards directly affect Maine.

The Clean Power Plan rules issued by the EPA in 2015 take groundbreaking, important steps to reducing coal plant pollution. These include smog-forming chemicals, which cloud the air and affect our lungs; mercury emissions, which contribute to fish consumption warnings throughout the state; and carbon, which contributes to global warming. In only a few short years, these rules have paid off: Certain coal plant pollutants have already been cut by up to 80 to 90 percent.

Anyone who has ever watched their child suffer through an asthma attack, or who has dealt with respiratory illness, or who has struggled on “bad ozone days” when heat, combined with smog, makes drawing breath difficult, understands the importance – and vulnerability – of our air quality. Which makes it unacceptable that this administration is trying to roll back the Clean Power Plan and replace it with a much weaker rule.

In sharp contrast to the Trump plan, the Clean Power Plan is projected to prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks, hundreds of thousands of missed work and school days and several thousand premature deaths annually by 2030. Repealing these standards means more sick kids, more hospital visits and thousands of preventable untimely deaths. In fact, according to the Trump EPA’s own analysis, repealing the Clean Power Plan would mean a 45 percent increase in coal plant sulfur dioxide emissions and 4,500 avoidable premature deaths nationally in 2030. It would take us back to the days of smoggy skies and acid rain-laden lakes.

Repealing the Clean Power Plan isn’t just a threat to our health; it also ignores the reality that our climate is heating up and we must address the No. 1 source of climate pollution. It would leave our communities more vulnerable to more ozone warnings on hot days, and more Lyme and other tick-borne diseases as the days warm. And if this year’s relentless hurricane season provides a harbinger of things to come, more carbon in the atmosphere will lead to warmer air and water temperatures, loading the dice for increasingly powerful and destructive storms.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to limit carbon pollution. In a rather cynical move, the Trump EPA is trying to replace the Clean Power Plan with a weak replacement rule. But in doing so, they have proposed to undercut the rule’s rationale of cleaning up the power system. So, this attack on the Clean Power Plan is also an attack on the integrity of the Clean Air Act.

By moving to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration is doing the bidding of the coal industry and big polluters, putting their profits before the health and safety of our children and families. Instead, we must maintain and strengthen the Clean Power Plan. Our organizations are fighting the Trump attack on clean air in the courts and in Congress because Mainers deserve clean air for generations to come.

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