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DC Heeds Health Voice for Clean Power Standard

Posted by Marjorie Molina, PSR Intern on June 30, 2016

The nation's capital took another big step toward climate solutions on June 28, 2016 as the District of Columbia City Council approved legislation (B21-0650) to expand their renewable energy target to 50% by 2032.

The bill, which heads to the desk of Mayor Muriel Bowser, sets one of the top-five mandatory clean energy goals in the nation at the state level. The bill will quadruple jobs in D.C.'s solar industry, which currently employs 1,000 people. It will also reduce climate pollution at a rate equal to taking 500,000 cars off the road per year.  

Climate change is one of the greatest health threats facing humanity in the 21st century. As patterns of temperature, precipitation and weather changes worldwide, the delicate balance of climate and life is disrupted, with serious impacts on food and agriculture, water sources and health.

Dr. Lise Van Susteren, a general and forensic psychiatrist, provided health testimony for Physicians for Social Responsibility at last month's city council meeting that climate change is impacting the health and mental health of her patients and indeed all people. For example, long-lasting bouts of heat exacerbates stress and symptoms of mental illness. Heat waves have been shown to increase violent behavior, suicide and homicide. All those on the east coast understand the devastation to health and infrastructure from extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy, not to mention anxiety about the future. 

Dr. Van Susteren said, "What an honor to have been a part of this effort to bring improved air quality to the residents of metropolitan DC. Thanks to PSR and all the other groups working so hard on this – support from respected organizations makes all the difference, and these victories inspire others communities to work for healthy policies too."

In addition to expanding D.C.'s Renewable Portfolio Standard, the bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Mary Cheh, establishes "Solar for All." The program will connect families with low-cost clean energy solutions and provide money-saving energy efficiency upgrades. The program will also make sure clean and affordable renewable energy is available to all District of Columbia residents. It aims to cut the electric bills of an estimated 100,000 low-income residents. Toxic air pollution from coal- or natural gas-produced electricity disproportionately impacts the health of low-income people and people of color.

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