The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week a proposed rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from coal and natural gas-fired power plants, a ruling the American Thoracic Society (ATS) calls a big step toward improving air quality. 

Power plants account for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States and are the largest stationary point source of such pollutants, according to a release from the ATS.

The EPA is proposing to reduce overall emissions from power plants by issuing stricter greenhouse gas emission standards for new power plants, creating greenhouse gas emission limits for existing power plants, and guidance for states to limit greenhouse emissions from the existing fleet of power plants.

Not only will the proposed rules reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they will also reduce toxic airborne concentrations of commonly encountered air pollutants like ozone and particulate matter that can seriously compromise the health of children, the elderly, and other populations at risk, according to the ATS.

“We believe the EPA has carefully considered previous US Supreme Court decisions and crafted a regulatory strategy that will address climate change by making significant reductions in GHG emission from powerplants while simultaneously withstanding judicial scrutiny,” says Jack Harkema, DVM, PhD, chair of the ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee, in a release.

ATS Environmental Health Policy Committee Vice Chair Alison Lee, MD, says in a release, “Today’s GHG (greenhouse gas) power plant ruling, combined with the EPA’s proposed rules to reduce GHG emissions from cars and trucks, as well as methane emissions from fossil fuel extraction, are major steps towards improving air quality.”