Air pollution accountability and United States coal power plants

In my current position, I address questions of air quality accountability using wide ranging data sources and innovative analytical tools. I’m working with fellow Harvard researchers to develop and expand methods that link power plants to people who are exposed to their emissions. The model we’ve developed, HyADS, uses the HYSPLIT trajectory model to track emissions from hundred of sources and quantify contributions of these sources to people living in ZIP codes throughout the country. Shown in 3D, exposure to coal power plant emissions looked like this in 2005:

Using HyADS, we quantified nationwide changes in exposure to coal power plant emissions after 2005. Total nationwide exposure to coal emissions decreased by 70% between 2005 and 2012, and most of the benefits were acheived in the eastern United States. Here, we show the spatial distribution of the change in HyADS coal exposure metric between 2005 and 2012.

Change in HyADS, 2005-2012. Adapted from Henneman et al. (2019a) Atmospheric Environment.

Using the variability in the HyADS metric over time and space, we are applying epidemiological methods designed to mitigate threats of observed and observed confounding (check out Henneman et al. (2019b)). With a team of researchers at Harvard and UT Austin, I identified substantial health benefits of the emissions decreases between 2005 and 2012, and differences in the health impacts of decreases in coal exposure compared to health impacts of decreases in exposure to ambient PM2.5 concentrations.

Lucas RF Henneman
Assistant Professor

Linking regulations to emissions, air quality, and health