Gov. Steve Bullock’s commitment to building a Montana-made plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants in our state will have direct public health benefits for Montana families as well as families across the country. The governor announced that he will create an advisory council to help devise Montana’s plan to comply with new federal greenhouse-gas regulations under America’s Clean Power Plan. The formation of an advisory council is an important step in the right direction to protect clean air and public health in Montana.
The advisory council must include diverse interests from all sectors, but especially a voice from the public health community. This is not a debate between environmentalists and coal-fired power producers. This is about Montana’s future, our public health and even our pocketbooks.
As the youth and families director for Montana Cancer Support Community, I understand the importance of public health to our communities. I work with families and children with chronic illnesses across the state. Individuals with such illnesses are incredibly vulnerable to environmental pollutants in the air. We all need clean air to breathe, but this is especially important for the most vulnerable members of our community. We must ensure they have an advocate at the decision-making table.
I applaud Bullock for his leadership and moving forward with a Montana-made plan to reduce carbon pollution. The Clean Power Plan gives our state an incredible opportunity to create solutions that work for Montana to address climate change. Climate change impacts everyone and has serious consequences for our public health. On behalf of Montana families, I cannot support a “business as usual” approach to energy and climate change.
More than 15,000 children in Montana suffer from asthma. Given that poor air quality is a trigger for asthma exacerbation, children in our communities are already bearing a significant health burden that is worsened by climate change. Our elected officials have a moral mandate to protect the health of our children and thus the air we breathe. For children with asthma and other chronic illnesses, exercise and outdoor play can be unsafe, especially during the summer fire season. These kids deserve all the help we can give them.
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Asthma rates have risen at alarming rates over the years in Montana. As a result, in 2007 Montana created a new program under the Department of Public Health and Human Services to improve the quality of life for Montanans with asthma. This is an important step towards protecting public health, but it is not enough. We also must fix the source of the problem and set limitations on carbon pollution.
Cutting carbon pollution from power plants will mean fewer asthma attacks, fewer missed days of school, and fewer hospital visits for Montana’s families. Reducing carbon pollution from power plants will also reduce particulate matter pollution, which has significant negative health effects, especially for kids, seniors, and individuals with heart and lung disease.
A Montana-made power plan will benefit everyone, but most importantly it will benefit our children. As a parent, I expect our elected officials to plan for our children’s future. Montana’s reliance on coal is outdated, unhealthy and unsustainable. As a public health advocate, I expect our elected officials to work with our community to protect children’s health. The governor must consider both Montana’s economic future and our public health as he works to create a Montana plan to reduce carbon pollution.
Montana has a tremendous opportunity to better protect children and all Montanans by working to develop a Montana-made strategy to reduce harmful air pollutants. Our elected officials must put aside partisan politics and work together towards solutions for Montana’s future. If we are serious about our commitment to the health and well-being of Montana children and families, we must swiftly create a strategy that cuts carbon pollution, emphasizes clean energy and efficiency, and improves the future for all Montanans.