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Downwind states stand to lose if Trump coal emissions plan takes shape

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Jeff Tyson

President Trump is expected to announce a new proposal on Tuesday that would allow states to develop their own emission standards for coal-fired power plants — a move that would undermine the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and make downwind states a target for increased air pollution, according to a Cornell University ecosystem scientist.


Robert Howarth

Robert Howarth

David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology

Robert Howarth is professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University and a faculty fellow at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. He says the level of ozone pollution in downwind states such as New York depends on emissions across borders.

Howarth says:

“Air pollution moves readily across state boundaries, and for example air quality in New York state is heavily influenced by the pollution emitted in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and other upwind states. The levels of acid rain we receive and the amount of ozone pollution we experience is more determined by actions in these upwind states than in New York itself. For this reason alone, it makes no sense to revert to letting each state set their own air emission standards. The Clean Air Act of 1970, a classic piece of bipartisan legislation that was signed into law by President Richard Nixon, recognized this fact and dictated the need for national control and national standards.

“Beyond that, we are in a critical period with regard to addressing climate change. We simply must greatly lower emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from energy producers, and do so soon. The Clean Power Plan put forward by the Obama administration was a step in the right direction, but in fact was nowhere near enough. However, to pull back even from this start is simply incomprehensible, given the climate crisis our country and the world face.”


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