WINCHESTER — A proposed roll back of federal air quality standards would adversely impact the Shenandoah Valley compared to much of the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
If approved, the Affordable Clean Energy plan (ACE) would repeal the 2014 Clean Power Plan, favoring the use of coal-fired power plants while undoing requirements that compel plant operators to invest in upgrades to limit pollution emissions.
About 1,400 people would die from respiratory illness per year nationwide by 2025 under the ACE, an EPA analysis says. That’s compared with saving between 2,700 and 6,600 lives per year by 2030 under the Clean Power Plan.
The public comment period on ACE ends Oct. 31.
In the Shenandoah Valley, there would be an increase of between .43 and .85 deaths per 100,000 residents per year under the ACE, the EPA says. The combined population of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties is about 130,000. This does not reflect the number of people who would suffer respiratory ailments.
Northern West Virginia, southern Pennsylvania and Ohio would have the highest respiratory-related premature deaths of any region in the country under ACE, between 1.4 and 2.4 deaths per 100,000 residents per year.
“[The] EPA did not analyze how much of the impacts in a particular state are from local emissions changes versus regional emissions changes,” Tricia Lynn, an EPA spokeswoman, said in a statement.
Representatives from the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, which opposes the rollback, say regional emissions can be expected to increase pollution and related illnesses across state lines.
“They obviously don’t see borders,” Ben Weiner, the chapter’s communications director, said about particulate matter and gasses regulated by the Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Power Plan aims to reduce U.S. carbon pollution by about one-third by 2030. It’s never been fully implemented and is now targeted for repeal by the current White House administration.
An initial analysis of the Clean Power Plan showed an annual health savings of $55 billion to $93 billion per year by avoiding things like premature death and asthma attacks in children.
“Were actually moving our economy in the wrong direction and risking public health,” Kelsey Crane, conservation program coordinator for the Sierra Club in Northern Virginia, said on Friday.
President Donald Trump has touted repeal of environmental regulations as a way to create and protect jobs.
No one from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality responded to requests for comment.