Setting strong standards for climate-changing carbon emissions from power plants would provide an added bonus – reductions in other air pollutants that can make people sick; damage forests, crops, and lakes; and harm fish and wildlife. This, according to a first-of-its-kind study released today by scientists at Syracuse University and Harvard who mapped the potential environmental and human health benefits of power plant carbon standards.

The authors of the new study, Co-benefits of Carbon Standards: Air Pollution Changes under Different 111d Options for Existing Power Plants, use three policy options for the forthcoming EPA rule as a guide to model changes in power plant emissions of four other harmful air pollutants: fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury. The scientists compared the model results with a business-as-usual reference case for the year 2020.

Of the three scenarios simulated, the top-performing option decreased sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions by 27% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 22% by 2020 compared to the reference case. This option reduced carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector by 35% from 2005 levels by 2020. The scientists state that the resulting air quality improvements are likely to lead to significant gains in public and environmental health.