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The Relationship Between Clean Power and Public Health: Unburying the Lede

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This past week, I've ended up gathering and reading various articles that focus on public health and the energy sector. Often when discussing policy or markets about clean power, we focus on the standard issues of affordability, emissions, reliability, etc. These aspects are of course critical and it makes sense that these get placed at the front, but discussions about how transitions to clean energy sources can benefit public health (not to mention the associated economic benefits that come from improved public health) are often left as an afterthought or side benefit-- not the main driver.

So on this Friday, I thought I'd gather a small handful of sources discussing this issue to focus on public health and clean power (or detriments to public health of non-clean power sources). Take a read of the below topics and if there are other important aspects that you want to discuss please drop them in the comments!


Aurora Health Announces Intention to Run Only on Renewable Electricity by 2030 

“As the 10th largest not-for-profit integrated health system in the country, it’s imperative that we help lead the way toward a healthy environment that can support healthy people. Transitioning to clean energy reduces air pollution that is responsible for many chronic health conditions and mitigates the health impacts of climate change,” Mary Larsen, director of environmental affairs and sustainability, said.

Public Health Benefits of (now rescinded) Clean Power Plan

  • The Clean Power Plan has public health and climate benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion per year in 2030, far outweighing the costs of $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion.
  • Reducing exposure to particle pollution and ozone in 2030 will avoid a projected
    • 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths
    • 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children
    • 340 to 3,300 heart attacks
    • 2,700 to 2,800 hospital admissions
    • 470,000 to 490,000 missed school and work days
  • From the soot and smog reductions alone, for every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan—American families will see up to $7 in health benefits.
  • The Clean Power Plan will reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent in 2030.  
    • 54,000 to 56,000 tons of PM2.5
    • 424,000 to 471,000 tons of sulfur dioxide
    • 407,000 to 428,000 tons of nitrogen dioxide

New EPA Plan Could Free Coal Plants to Release More Mercury Into the Air

It drastically changed the formula the government uses in its required cost-benefit analysis of the regulation by taking into account only certain effects that can be measured in dollars, while ignoring or playing down other health benefits.


Do you think public health should feature more prominently as a talking point when pursuing clean power sources?

Matt Chester's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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