This was written by Sarah Skoglund for the Great Falls Tribune:
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 has announced 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 & 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. These individuals are incredibly vulnerable to environmental pollutants in the air. We all need clean air to breathe, but this is vital to the most vulnerable individuals. They deserve an advocate at the decision-making table.
I applaud Bullock for his leadership and moving forward with a plan to reduce carbon pollution. The Clean Power Plan gives Montana an opportunity to create real solutions 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.
Asthma rates have risen at alarming rates 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 important step protects public health but it is not enough. We must fix the source of the problem by setting limitations on carbon pollution.
Cutting carbon pollution from power plants means fewer asthma attacks, fewer missed days of school, and fewer hospital visits. Reducing carbon pollution from power plants also reduces particulate matter pollution, which has significant negative health effects for kids, immuno-compromised individuals, seniors, and those with heart and lung disease.
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.
Sarah Skoglund is the Youth & Families director at Cancer Support Community Montana. She lives in Bozeman with her dog, husband and their 2-year-old son.