A coalition of health professionals in the United States is urging the federal government to include sustainable energy in its new energy policy to be released this week.
WASHINGTON, DC, US, 2001-05-15 <SolarAccess.com> A coalition of health professionals in the United States is urging the federal government to include sustainable energy in its new energy policy to be released this week. More than 100 professionals signed a letter to urge Vice President Dick Cheney to preserve crucial public health and environmental protections in the new policy. The Clean Air Act protections should not be under fire, and they claim that rolling them back would endanger America’s health. “The Clean Air Act wasn’t a cosmetic piece of legislation; people need this protection,” says Robert Musil, executive director and CEO of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “These physicians and health care professionals can attest that air pollution contributes to thousands of cases of asthma, respiratory illnesses, and even premature death each year. Suspending provisions of the act would be a public health disaster.” The health professionals are concerned that the Bush Administration’s new energy policy will suspend or weaken air quality emissions limitations in order to advance usage of fossil fuels and increase the dependence on conventional power plants. The professionals claim that suspension of air quality enforcement activities would endanger the health of millions of Americans, especially children, the elderly and the infirm. “It is unthinkable to put forward an energy policy urging the construction of more power plants,” adds Musil. “Particulate matter from power plants causes more than 603,000 asthma attacks each year and contributes to ground level ozone that can reduce the breathing capacity of a healthy adult by as much as 20 percent. Power plants spew mercury, lead and other known neurotoxins. A policy that increases these health hazards is beyond irresponsible.” The signatories say a better solution is to pursue sustainable energy while protecting health and the environment. They agree that the recent energy crisis in California has highlighted the need to increase energy efficiency and conservation activities, but not to increase energy production to the detriment of public health. They charge that the claim by Bush and Cheney that health and environmental regulations have driven up the cost of energy is unfounded. “There is no evidence that the Clean Air Act has any bearing on the energy challenges facing the nation,” explains Sandra Schubert of Earthjustice. “Suggesting such a connection is false and irresponsible.” Combustion power plants emit nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide which contribute to global warming, and exacerbate respiratory disease. The groups estimate that pollution from power plants shortens 30,000 lives each year. Physicians for Social Responsibility represents 22,000 physicians who promote a sustainable environment, nuclear disarmament and an end to gun violence. Earthjustice is a non- profit law firm that represents environmental issues.