Green Scene: Good news, bad news

Ready or not: New EPA rules for toxic air emissions are coming soon to power plants across the nation; Progress Energy says its Skyland plant is already in line to meet them, thanks to scrubber technology installed in its stacks about six years ago. Photo courtesy of Southwings.

Women in several Western North Carolina counties aren't living as long as they used to. The details come in a new report, “Falling Behind: Life Expectancy in U.S. Counties from 2000 to 2007 in an International Context,” which appeared June 15 online at PopulationHealthMetrics.com.

“For women, you have barely any counties [in the Deep South and the Appalachian Mountains] that are ahead of the curve,” says Bill Heisel of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which published the report. Indeed, as in many Third-World nations, there’s a backward trend in life expectancy, he notes. “It’s even more dramatic if you just look at the last decade,” says Heisel.

Health problems caused by smoking, obesity and high blood pressure may be at the root of the downward trend. “Those things have worsened recently,” Heisel tells Xpress. “McDowell lost a full year of life expectancy. Henderson went backwards.”

Yancey, Madison, Mitchell, Jackson, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Rutherford, and Swain counties also show declines in life expectancy, especially for females (see map). "It's a truly disturbing trend that women are losing life expectancy even faster than men," says Dr. Ali Mokdad, professor of global health for the Institute. "One way this will manifest itself is through grandmothers dying younger, meaning they won't be able to provide the support they so often do and to give guidance to new mothers. This could have a big impact on society [but] by focusing on the main preventable causes of death — smoking, obesity and high blood pressure — we can reverse this trend."”
For the full study, go to http://bit.ly/mfMjMs.

Making the grade

Back in March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a dramatic reduction in the allowable emissions of mercury, lead and other toxins released from hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country. After some utilities demanded more time beyond the original July 5 deadline for pubic comment, the EPA granted a 30-day extension, though EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that the final timeline for issuing the new regulations won’t change. The standards are to be phased in over three years, and states would have the authority to grant utilities a fourth year to comply.

“The Asheville plant is very well positioned to meet any new standards,” says Progress Energy spokesperson Scott Sutton. “The regulations they are drafting right now include recommendations for the technology [that] power plants should use, and we have already installed that technology at the Skyland plant.”

Sutton cites the Clean Smokestacks Act of 2002, which allowed utilities to recover the cost of installing pollution-control equipment. The company installed new scrubbers in 2005 and 2006, which reduced mercury emissions by about 73 percent.

Let’s get wild

The eighth annual Mountain Wildlife Days event is right around the corner, set for Friday, July 15, and Saturday, July 16, at the Sapphire Valley Community Center, three miles east of Cashiers. Organized by the regional conservation group Wild South, the event is designed to connect folks of all ages with the wonders of nature and inspire a sense of responsibility to the natural world.

One of this year’s new presenters is renowned Cherokee storyteller Freeman Owle; he will share insights on how the Cherokee nation’s long-standing regard for wild things influences their society today.

Award-winning cinematographer Kate Marshall will share original footage of black bears and cubs in their natural habitat while she examines some of the modern dilemmas bears face. Naturalist Rob Gudger will be back with a new program designed to promote better understanding of wolves and highlight the need for compassionate advocacy for this oft-misunderstood predator. Dedicated raptor advocate Doris Mager (aka the "Eagle Lady") will bring birds of prey to perform in a flying exhibition, and offer an up-close look stressing raptors’ role in the natural world.

The event will also offer some hiking excursions: a moderate hike in Panthertown; a more challenging one to the Devil's Courthouse on Whiteside Mountain; and an easy bird-watching walk. Prospective hikers are urged to sign up for their preference by calling the Sapphire Valley Community Center in advance (see "Wanna go?").

The event includes a musical celebration Friday evening featuring inspirational words from area pastors, accompanied by the world-class nature photography of Bill Lea. A special children's program will be provided by Mouths of the South, puppeteers from Cashiers Baptist Church.

— Send your environmental news to sandrew@mountainx.com, or call 251-1333, ext. 153.

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One thought on “Green Scene: Good news, bad news

  1. Susan Andrew

    Regarding that second item, Bill McLin, President of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), wrote the following statement commending the Environmental Protection Agency for adopting the cross-state air pollution rule on July 7, 2011.

    On behalf of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), I commend the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its action announced today implementing the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. For the 20 million Americans with asthma (including 6.7 million children), the content of the air they breathe is top of mind, breathing without thinking is not so routine, and they are more likely to sleep poorly at night and miss work or school by day. This rule will cut air polluting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions generated by power plants in one state that spread to other states, and will help assure health of residents in neighboring states affected by traveling pollutants. This new rule will help protect the health of those most at risk – children, teens, seniors and people with chronic lung diseases like asthma. According to the EPA, the new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will prevent between 34,000 premature deaths and 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma by 2014.

    We recognize that some critics cite adverse economic impacts of tighter standards. However, the economic burden cuts both ways. Research studies have documented a list of costs that include lost wages for patients and for parents who care for children with asthma, lost productivity for companies that employ them, increased hospital admissions, frequent emergency room visits and multiple treatments to control chronic symptoms.

    The economic burden of asthma and other respiratory diseases, cancers and cardiovascular diseases are borne by taxpayers via Medicare and Medicaid, and are being borne by corporations who employ these Americans, pay the costs of health insurance for them and their children, and lose productivity when they are sick or caring for their chronically ill loved ones.

    AAFA believes that this EPA action is the right step to help keep Americans with asthma safe and healthy.

    Statement of Bill McLin, President and CEO, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), Commending the Environmental Protection Agency for Adopting Cross-State Air Pollution Rule

    (See statement online at: http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=5&sub=105&cont=746)

    July 7, 2011

    On behalf of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), I commend the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its action announced today implementing the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. For the 20 million Americans with asthma (including 6.7 million children), the content of the air they breathe is top of mind, breathing without thinking is not so routine, and they are more likely to sleep poorly at night and miss work or school by day. This rule will cut air polluting sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions generated by power plants in one state that spread to other states, and will help assure health of residents in neighboring states affected by traveling pollutants. This new rule will help protect the health of those most at risk – children, teens, seniors and people with chronic lung diseases like asthma. According to the EPA, the new Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will prevent between 34,000 premature deaths and 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma by 2014.

    We recognize that some critics cite adverse economic impacts of tighter standards. However, the economic burden cuts both ways. Research studies have documented a list of costs that include lost wages for patients and for parents who care for children with asthma, lost productivity for companies that employ them, increased hospital admissions, frequent emergency room visits and multiple treatments to control chronic symptoms.

    The economic burden of asthma and other respiratory diseases, cancers and cardiovascular diseases are borne by taxpayers via Medicare and Medicaid, and are being borne by corporations who employ these Americans, pay the costs of health insurance for them and their children, and lose productivity when they are sick or caring for their chronically ill loved ones.

    AAFA believes that this EPA action is the right step to help keep Americans with asthma safe and healthy.

    AAFA is an independent, not-for-profit voluntary health association dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with asthma and allergies.

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