Environmental engineer links coal
pollution, premature death
By Rob Golub
Racine Journal Times
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
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
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
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
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.