Celebrating new rules that curtail carbon emissions and benefit public health

by Dahlia Rockowitz, Dayenu Director of Campaigns & Partnership

While the image of smoke billowing from a power plant smokestack may feel archaic, the sad truth is that it’s the reality for many communities across the country. Until just a few weeks ago, fossil fuel-burning power plants were allowed to spew pollution into our air without limit. 

While these fumes poisoned the air that all of us breathe, they had the worst impact on historically marginalized communities already overburdened by pollution, causing countless cases of premature deaths, illnesses, and absences from school and work. 

Indeed, power plants that run on coal and gas not only have an enormous impact on immediate health and welfare, but also the health of our planet; they are responsible for roughly a quarter of carbon emissions in the U.S. As a result, Dayenu committed to join with other organizations and people of faith in organizing to call for new rules that would apply strong safeguards and limits on power plant pollution and carbon emissions. 

We are now delighted to celebrate several final rules that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced in April. The power plant / climate pollution rule is one of several designed to protect communities, improve public health, and accelerate the transition to clean energy. 

Chevrei, friends, this is our victory to share. We worked hard to elect policymakers who understand the urgency of the climate crisis, and raised our voices to win the strongest rules.

Last summer, we joined with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism to submit hundreds of comments to the EPA in support of strong power plant rules. Our advocacy was an act of faith, built on our unshakable belief that change is possible. Nearly a year later, we celebrate the results. 

Among the new rules:

  • A rule that would ensure that all coal-fired plants – new and existing – and all new gas-fired plants control 90 percent of their carbon pollution.  
  • A rule strengthening the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for coal-fired power plants, tightening the emissions standard for toxic metals by 67 percent and finalizing a 70 percent reduction in the emissions standard for mercury. 
  • A rule to reduce pollutants discharged through wastewater from coal-fired power plants by more than 660 million pounds per year.
  • A rule that will require the better management of coal ash, the waste produced from burning coal, in areas that were unregulated at the federal level until now.
  • A new rule that sets stronger standards to tailpipe emissions from heavy-duty vehicles (e.g., school buses, delivery trucks, and tractors). 
  • In March, the EPA also finalized the strongest-ever pollution standards for cars and smaller vehicles, which are estimated to prevent more than 7 billion tons of carbon emissions (transportation is the largest source of emissions in the U.S.).

These rules will have huge impacts on air, water, and public health. The EPA’s regulatory impact analysis estimates substantial health benefits, including:

  • Up to 1,200 avoided premature deaths
  • 870 avoided hospital and emergency room visits
  • 1,900 avoided cases of asthma onset
  • 360,000 avoided cases of asthma symptoms
  • 48,000 avoided school absence days
  • 57,000 lost workdays

These new rules demonstrate the power that a people-centered climate justice movement can have. We know there’s more work to do — and no limit to what we can accomplish together.


Dahlia Rockowitz

Dahlia Rockowitz, Dayenu's Director of Campaigns & Partnership, believes in the power of everyday people to demand and win inclusive, equitable, and ambitious climate solutions. She previously worked in both the climate and Jewish social justice movements, planning activist trainings for thousands of committed volunteers around the world at The Climate Reality Project and advocating to the US government in support of human rights and climate justice worldwide at American Jewish World Service. Dahlia studied environmental justice and policy at the University of Michigan.

Please fill out this form to access this resource.

By signing up, you will receive periodic communications from Dayenu.