The Frederick News-Post
We must protect Frederick residents from fossil fuel pollution
· By Tim Whitehouse Special to The News-Post
· Nov 20, 2016
Increasing our renewable energy is a small price to pay for a healthier Maryland.
Every day I work with health professionals who are trying their best to care for us. These health professionals know that most of the factors that affect our health occur outside medical institutions. That’s why I hope that the Maryland General Assembly will override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the Clean Jobs Act.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act would increase the use the use of non-polluting solar and wind energy and reduce our reliance of the burning fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Our reliance on fossil fuels causes climate change and releases pollution into the air. Air pollution contributes to bad air quality days, higher risks of asthma attacks and causes hundreds of thousands of missed work or school days. It is responsible for thousands of premature deaths and is a well-established cause of lung cancer, respiratory illness and cardiovascular disease.
Those especially at risk include children, women, the elderly, low-income communities and people with existing respiratory health problems. Communities of color and low-income households are more likely to live near facilities that emit pollution, and as a consequence face higher cancer risks from hazardous air pollutants emitted by traditional power plants.
Pediatricians and parents have reason for concern — Maryland’s childhood asthma rates are well above the national average (12 percent versus 8.6 percent), largely due to both indoor and outdoor pollutants.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act will help address some of these health problems by committing Maryland to receive 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 — an increase from the current goal of 20 percent by 2022.
Health professionals know health and social issues combine in ways that significantly affect a patient’s life expectancy, productivity and quality of life. An increase in renewable energy standards will not only lead to better overall health, but it will help to establish Maryland as a regional hub for private investment in the fast-growing solar and wind industries. This will result in huge benefits to Maryland’s economy, public health and social welfare. One study estimates that the Clean Air Jobs Act will increase economic growth by up to $600 million per year.
To promote the health of all Marylanders, achieve health care savings and address climate change, the General Assembly should support the Clean Energy Jobs Act in 2017. There’s too much at stake to wait.
Tim Whitehouse lives in Poolesville, Maryland, with his wife and three children. He is the executive director of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility (Chesapeake PSR).
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