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Great Lakes Article:

Environmental engineer links coal pollution, premature death
By Rob Golub
Racine Journal Times
04/19/03

Air pollution from coal-burning power generation is linked to premature deaths and asthma attacks, said Douglas Aburano, an environmental engineer with the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Aburano explained there would be reductions in deaths and asthma attacks in Wisconsin if Congress passes a law requiring reduced power plant emissions.

He said the law would apply to all power plants, but the greatest benefits would come from emission reductions at coal-fired plants.

The proposal for nationwide emission reductions is called the Clear Skies Act; it has not yet been approved by Congress. The plan would result in 200 fewer premature deaths and 8,000 fewer asthma attacks in Wisconsin each year, according to an EPA Web site.

President Bush endorsed the proposed reductions in his State of the Union Address to Congress in January.

"I have sent you Clear Skies legislation that mandates a 70 percent cut in air pollution from power plants ... I urge you to pass (this measure), for the good of both our environment and our economy," Bush said.

Most of the benefits from the Clear Skies Act would come from reductions in coal-fired air pollution because coal is so dirty, Aburano said.

"I think our position is that if we enacted these requirements, you would see a reduction in the amount of air pollution," he added. "The corresponding health benefits would occur. Fewer premature deaths. Fewer asthma attacks."

If the Clear Skies Act passes, it would require utilities to reduce emissions overall by 70 percent from the 2000 emission level. Utilities that failed to reduce mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other pollutants would be subject to penalties.

But We Energies does not see a connection between excessive emissions and the Oak Creek Power Plant, located on the Lake Michigan shore at the Racine-Milwaukee county line.

The company takes the position that power plants with effective emission controls cannot be linked to premature deaths or illness. The company reports it has been installing effective emission controls at Oak Creek.

We Energies has promised to reduce emissions from the 2000 level, even with new coal-fired generators added to the current plant.

Environmentalists, however, are skeptical. They say the reduced emissions would still be too high, and that Oak Creek is currently the dirty workhorse of the We Energies system.

The EPA cautions that its estimates on the number of deaths and asthma cases in Wisconsin could change if the Clear Skies bill is altered in Congress.

The EPA reference to 200 fewer premature deaths annually and other possible benefits from the Clear Skies bill is on the EPA Web site.

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