Martin Hamlette

A study recently released by the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) has taken aim at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Clean Power Plan, which places the first ever federal carbon pollution standards on existing power plants. The study makes the claim that EPA’s Clean Power Plan will jeopardize the health of minority communities by raising electricity costs.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Independent research conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology has found that the Clean Power Plan will shrink electricity bills by roughly eight percent per person in 2030, saving Americans an average of $10 each month.

What is worse is that by spreading misinformation about the EPA’s landmark carbon pollution safeguards, we are jeopardizing the health of minorities all across the country because climate change is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time. Our physicians are on the front lines every day and they see firsthand the dire consequences that granting polluters free reign to foul our air is having on our communities and our children.

We know that the health impacts of climate change—such as more asthma attacks and higher rates of respiratory illness—are real and are happening now. Nine out of ten National Medical Association members surveyed report that climate change is affecting the health of their patients and an overwhelming majority say the U.S. should make a large scale effort to protect people from current effects of climate change. Nearly nine out of ten members who were surveyed also believe air pollution increases the severity of chronic disease.

What’s more, the health costs caused by climate change are not evenly shared, with study after study confirming that minority communities are bearing the brunt of high levels of toxic air pollution.

According to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), nearly 40 percent of the six million Americans living in close proximity to a coal plant are people of color. Blacks also have the highest rate of asthma in the country and make 350 percent more emergency room visits for asthma-related issues than the average rate among whites.

Figures like these show that we need to be doing everything we can to make sure that all Americans can have cleaner air. The EPA is poised to take a huge step in the right direction with the Clean Power Plan, which is estimated to prevent 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work and school days annually by 2030.

Strong clean air standards will save everyday Americans money and improve their health. In fact, The Clean Power Plan has public health and climate benefits estimated at $55-$95 billion per year by 2030, far outweighing any costs.

Minority communities have so far been some of the biggest supporters of cleaning up our air. No one should have to live in dirty air that makes them sick, but it’s especially unfair that our least fortunate and most vulnerable communities—our children and those living in poverty and with lower incomes —have to suffer even more than the rest. It is proven that strong pollution controls will cut costs for consumers and also reduce the health impacts associated with air pollution, making the Clean Power Plan a clear win-win for minority communities across America.

Martin Hamlette is the Executive Director of the National Medical Association