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EDITORIAL: Trump puts the coal industry ahead of your health

The Crawford power plant, taken offline in 2012 remains idle. The plant, built in 1924, and its sister Fisk power plant, built in 1903 and also shuttered in 2012, were the last two coal burning power plants located in a major U.S. city. | Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Dirtier air, hundreds more deaths, and a worsening of climate change.

That’s what’s we as a nation can expect now that the Trump administration, ever dismissive of both scientific fact and environmental well-being, has proposed to scrap the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in favor of a free-for-all on restricting emissions from coal-burning power plants.

So here’s the scorecard: coal plants and greenhouse gas emissions, 1; your right to breathe clean air, 0.

EDITORIAL

Read the fine print on this, as reported in the New York Times, and the scorecard is even more clear. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency acknowledges the plan could well lead to “between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030.”

Up to 1,400 premature deaths a year.

That’s an unacceptable price to pay in exchange for giving states free rein to regulate coal-fired plants on their own. Big-coal states like Wyoming and West Virginia now have an incentive to keep older, dirtier plants online, though common sense and public health dictate they should be shut down.

And let’s not forget climate change. We’re fast approaching the point of no return on reversing our current man-made climate crisis, and the heat waves, hurricanes and floods will only get worse if our nation ramps up on burning fossil fuels like coal.

Fortunately, Illinois can take pride in swimming against the Trump administration’s tide. Two years ago, the state Legislature passed the Future Energy Jobs Act, a farsighted law designed to provide cleaner air, more jobs and lower energy bills. Earlier this year, Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the EPA for allowing a proposed Foxconn manufacturing plant to skirt pollution controls that impacted our state.

Now Illinois must redouble its efforts, if we are a state that truly believes that every citizen deserves air that’s fit to breathe and water that’s safe to drink.

The U.S. EPA has failed us, but Illinois can continue the fight.

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