Lawrence Solomon: Yale Law Journal: Climate Debate Killing Hundreds

The climate change debate has killed hundreds if not thousands of people, according to The Dirty Climate Debate, an article published in the Yale Law Journal. The deaths, along with other health tolls and widespread environmental damage, are a consequence of a change of heart by leading environmental organizations in the U.S., as part of their strategy to win the climate change debate.

“Prominent environmental groups like the Sierra Club are now opposing efforts by utilities to install environmental controls on their power plants, the same controls that these groups have fought voraciously to attain for over thirty years and that many utilities have avoided,” states author Brian H. Potts. “These environmentalists are choosing to sacrifice known short-term health and environmental benefits for their long-term climate policy goals.”

As the Yale Law Journal explains, coal-burning electric utilities are only too happy to invest in pollution control equipment that will protect the environment and save hundreds of lives per year when regulators approve the investments. Captive customers of the power companies will then be bound to repay the utilities, and to provide the utilities with a secure rate of return.

Perversely, Sierra Club and others are intervening in the process, convincing regulators to disallow the utilities’ requests. In one case, the Sierra Club is fighting a major pollution abatement proposal in Arkansas although, according to EPA-based estimates, these controls would annually “save 250 to 350 people from premature death, avoid 300 to 400 adults from having non-fatal heart attacks, keep thousands of children from developing upper or lower respiratory symptoms, avoid tens of thousands of work loss days, and provide general health benefits valued at over a billion dollars.”

The environmentalists are willing to accept these immense human and economic costs, the Yale paper states, to discourage an investment in a coal plant that might extend its operating life, undermining the environmentalists’ greater goal of combating greenhouse gas emissions.

To save lives and the environment, Congress should act to set clear rules. “There is no reason to continue to punish our environment simply because no one can decide what to do on the climate change issue,” the Yale Law Journal article, found here, concludes.

Lawrence Solomon, Financial Post, June 10, 2010

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