Indiana Doctors, Public Health Experts Rally For EPA Clean Power Plan

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Shane Levy – shane.levy@sierraclub.org, 201-679-9507

Indiana Doctors, Public Health Experts Rally For EPA Clean Power Plan

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana doctors and public health experts stood outside Gov. Mike Pence's office on Tuesday to highlight the public health threats to Hoosiers of climate disruption, and to admonish state officials to start working on a plan to reduce dangerous carbon emissions. The health experts spoke in support of the Clean Power Plan, which would place the first-ever controls on dangerous carbon pollution and reduce other harmful emissions from power plants.

The event comes just one week after Gov. Pence announced in a letter to President Obama that the State of Indiana would not comply with the Clean Power Plan as it is currently written. Medical experts emphasized the health benefits of clean energy and the need to reduce health threats to children, asthma patients and all Hoosiers.

“I was trained to recognize symptoms and consider causes. A complaint of cough, chest tightness, shortness of breath, wheezing, and anxiety, is likely asthma. Air pollution causes asthma and other diseases: cardiovascular and respiratory, cancer, reproductive failure, infant death and impaired lung growth,” said Dr. Steve Jay, an Indianapolis physician and Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “Indiana has major problems with air pollution and asthma. Burning fossil fuel, such as coal, puts toxic pollutants into the air. Given the seriousness of the health threats, I believe it would be irresponsible for Governor Pence and Indiana to fail to prepare a plan to reduce carbon pollution.”

According to U.S. EPA, weather and climate play a significant role in people's health. Changes in climate affect the average weather conditions that we are accustomed to. Warmer average temperatures will likely lead to hotter days and more frequent and longer heat waves. This could increase the number of heat-related illnesses and deaths, with particular dangers to the elderly and children with asthma. Increases in the frequency or severity of extreme weather events such as storms could increase the risk of dangerous flooding, high winds, and other direct threats to people and property. Warmer temperatures could increase the concentrations of unhealthy air and water pollutants. Changes in temperature, precipitation patterns, and extreme events could enhance the spread of some diseases. (see: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/impacts-adaptation/health.html)

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In 2014, a national committee of experts in agriculture, climate science, commerce and disaster relief released the National Climate Assessment (NCA) at the White House. The report predicts Indiana can expect even more heat waves, more extreme storms and poorer air and water quality in the decades ahead. The rapidly changing climate poses a threat to Indiana crops, our health, our families and our communities, which face increasing costs of cleaning up climate-related weather disasters.

“Reducing air pollution and mitigating climate change is not just a matter of health. It is a matter of justice. The predicted rise in atmospheric temperature will have numerous effects on health, including sickness and death due to increased frequency of heat waves, and increased air pollution. However, certain segments of our population – namely the elderly, minorities, the poor, and those with disabilities and chronic diseases -- will bear the brunt of these effects,” said Frank Rosenthal, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Occupational and Environmental Health Sciences at Purdue University School of Health Sciences. “By refusing to abide by EPA's plan to reduce carbon emissions, Governor Pence endangers the health of not only Indiana residents, but of all those in the entire region, particularly those most vulnerable to the effects of heat waves and air pollution.”

EPA's draft Clean Power Plan rule sets a modest goal for Indiana, asking the state to reduce carbon pollution by only 20 percent by 2030. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, coal plant retirements and energy efficiency have already pushed Indiana 55 percent of the way toward the short-term 2020 Clean Power Plan benchmark. If the ‪Indiana General Assembly had not repealed the state-wide energy efficiency program known as Energizing Indiana last year, Indiana would be on track to surpass the interim 2020 goals outlined in the Clean Power Plan.

“In the mounting scientifically rigorous evidence, Indiana has the opportunity to shine by abiding the EPA's plan to reduce carbon emissions. This is the right thing to do and the responsible course of action for our children. I urge the government of Indiana to be a positive role model for the children of our wonderful state,” said Yi Wang, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Health at Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.

Seventy-five percent of Hoosiers believe that the government should limit dangerous greenhouse gas emissions created by polluting industries, according to a polling report released in 2013 by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (CA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), co-chairs of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change. The report also showed that at least 79 percent of Hoosiers polled acknowledged the existence of climate disruption, a fact that Indiana can no longer ignore.

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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