By Jason Kuruvilla, Consumers Union
Low income communities and communities of color often bear the brunt of health challenges caused by air pollution from dirty emissions from power plants. These pollutants are one reason that rates of asthma and other lung diseases among children in these communities are significantly higher than in other areas of the country. They also are more likely to spend a larger share of their income on their electricity bills.
So the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which aims to reduce pollution from power plants and expand the use of clean, renewable energy, can have a profoundly positive impact in these communities – but only if states are thoughtful in how they choose to implement the plan. Done right, EPA estimates that the CPP will avoid 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks among children and 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths.
To help guide policymakers in the right direction, a coalition of clean energy and environmental justice advocates developed the Clean Power For All Policy Innovation Center. The Innovation Center offers a series of toolkits to help states develop CPP compliance plans that prioritize those communities most vulnerable to air pollution and climate change.
Among the specific objectives the coalition seeks to address, include:
- Meaningfully engaging frontline communities throughout the process of devising and implementing state plans.
- Preventing and cleaning up hot spots, and holding polluters accountable to maintaining safe air quality.
- Ensuring polluters are accountable for their pollution in any carbon pricing system and harnessing that value to help rebuild frontline communities.
- Investing in programs and projects that begin to reverse the devastation caused by the fossil fuel industry in frontline communities.
- Creating good, family-sustaining jobs in the clean energy economy and providing pathways to these jobs for affected workers and communities on the frontlines.
- Addressing the needs of workers and the economic redevelopment of communities affected by the transition away from fossil fuels.
- Investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy in low-income communities and communities of color to ensure that the burden of high electricity costs is lifted off of economically vulnerable households.
Consumers Union has long advocated for strong standards for cleaner air and energy efficiency that would lead to savings for utility ratepayers. And according to a recent study from the Georgia Institute of Technology, states could implement the Clean Power Plan in a way that would save the average household over $160 a year on electricity bills by 2030 and which could save a total of $1,868 over the next 15 years. These savings would mean more money for consumers to spend on essentials, like food, housing, and healthcare – and help boost further economic activity in local communities.
Consumers can also do their part to reduce energy demand. Learn how you can improve the energy efficiency of your home and to find programs offered by your state, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.