Virginia Regulatory Town Hall
Department of Environmental Quality
Air Pollution Control Board
Regulation for Emissions Trading [9 VAC 5 ‑ 140]
Action Reduce and Cap Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuel Fired Electric Power Generating Facilities (Rev. C17)
Stage Proposed
Comment Period Ended on 4/9/2018
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3/15/18  9:19 am
Commenter: Douglas Hendren, MD, MBA. Physicians for Social Responsibility

Executive Directive 11, Virginia's Clean Energy Initiative


Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Harrisonburg Hearing, 3/14/18

I am a retired physician, and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility. I believe that the RGGI makes good medical sense as well as business sense for Virginians. Sourcing our energy from dirty sources carries very high costs.

Will capping Virginia's emissions make a difference? Let us look at the evidence. The Boston consulting group Abt Associates has analyzed the public health impacts of RGGI* over a 5-year period, finding:

    • Hundreds of avoided premature adult deaths.
    • Hundreds of avoided heart attacks.
    • Thousands of avoided asthmatic episodes.
    • Hundreds of emergency room visits and hospital admissions.
    • Tens of thousands of lost work days.
    • Savings of 3 to 8.3 billion dollars.

Fossil-fuel energy imposes many hidden costs on Virginians. It shortens our lives and sickens our children. It fouls our air, congests our emergency rooms and raises our medical bills. Changes in the atmosphere have brought us higher oceans and violent storms threatening our coastal cities. The cost to the US of extreme weather events in 2017 came to $306 billion (Forbes Magazine**).

Virginians cannot afford to be held hostage by the fossil-fuel sector and their political operatives. It is time to make policy decisions based on scientific assessment and common sense.  I support setting the strongest possible standards for cutting Virginia emissions, including:

     • An initial cap of 30 million tons, with periodic downward adjustment.
     • Continuation of the program after 2030, unless superceded by a carbon tax.
     • No exclusion for biomass plants.
     • No exclusion for methane.***

Finally, it is time to come clean about methane. With present technology, natural gas is actually worse for our health and worse for global warming than burning coal. Nearly all of our natural gas is obtained by fracking, which virtually all independent studies have found is associated with a greater than 5% rate of fugitive methane emissions. This makes gas worse than coal with regard to greenhouse gas emissions. It is time to stop pretending that burning gas in Virginia can be separated from fracking for that same gas in Pennsylvania or West Virginia. It is time for honest carbon accounting!


Douglas H. Hendren, MD, MBA

*Source - Abt Associates, Analysis of Public Health Impacts of RGGI, 2009-2014


***See PSR report: Too Dirty, Too Dangerous: Why health professionals reject natural gas.






CommentID: 63612