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Air Quality Concerns: Are Coal Plants to Blame?

Adam Burke
Southend, a Muscatine neighborhood that borders the Grain Processing Corporation and Muscatine Power and Water coal plants

For decades, U.S. climate change policy has amounted to, "Do as I say, not as I do." However, this week President Obama announced its boldest step yet to reduce carbon emissions. The President wants to reduce carbon emission from power plants by 30% by the year 2030.

Today on River to River, what these guidelines mean for Iowa.

First we talk with Iowa City producer and Little Village Magazine editor, Adam Burke, who has reported on the air quality in Muscatine, an Iowa town referred to as having “the worst air in Iowa.” Muscatine is home to several power plants with coal-fired boilers.

“It’s like living in a prison in this community,” says Muscatine resident, Sherry Leonard. “We have to keep the windows and doors shut in order to breathe; otherwise, we’re sick.”

We also look at potential job loss or creation due to the EPA initiative, as well as the effects on the environment and public health. Joining to debate the pros and cons of the new rules are: Regi Goodale, Director of Regulatory Affairs for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, Jerry Schnoor, Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa, and David Kreutzer, Senior Policy Analyst at The Heritage Foundation.

Georgetown's Gabe Pacyniak also joins to explain where Iowa stands among other states in the country, with a state-by-state climate and energy guide. He says Iowa contributes a significant amount of pollution, while at the same time making some of the most progress towards sustainability.

“Iowa right now has one of the highest carbon pollution intensities…significantly higher than the U.S. average,” says Pacyniak. At the same time, “Iowa is such a leader in renewable energy."

And as the country aims to depend less on nonrenewable energy sources, there is a greater focus towards wind and solar energy. Author Phil Warburg offers predictions on Iowa's energy industry and the potential for clean energy in the state.

River to River - How EPA's new carbon emission guidelines will affect Iowa

Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River