Power Plant Pollution & States

Toxic Power:Report Ranks States With Worst Air Pollution From Power Plants

August 10, 2012
Image Credit: Jarous / Shutterstock

April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

According to a report released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Texas is the 10th worst state in the nation when it comes to exposing residents to toxic air pollution from coal-fired plants.

Unfortunately, that’s not all the report had to say about the Lone Star State.

Texas also ranked 10th in toxic air pollution from the electric sector, emitting nearly 10.5 million pounds of harmful chemicals. This accounts for 25 percent of the state’s pollution and 3 percent of toxic pollution from all power plants in the U.S.

Texas ranked 1st among all states in industrial mercury air pollution from power plants with nearly 12,740 pounds emitted in 2010. This accounts for 78 percent of the state’s mercury air pollution and 19 percent of the overall U.S. mercury air pollution.

The report did have some good news. On the national level, there was a 19 percent drop in all air toxins emitted from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available, compared to 2009 levels. The drop, which also includes a 4 percent decrease in mercury emissions, results from two key factors. One is the increasing use by power companies of natural gas, which is cleaner and cheaper than coal; the other is the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls by many plants. These new controls are put into place in anticipation of new health protections issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“Toxic pollution is already being reduced as a result of EPA’s health-protecting standards,” said John Walke, NRDC’s clean air director. “Thanks to the agency’s latest safeguards, millions of children and their families in the states hardest hit by toxic air pollution from power plants will be able to breathe easier. But these protections are threatened,” Walke said, “because polluters are intent on persuading future Congresses or presidential administrations to repeal them.”

EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will cut mercury air pollution by 79 percent from 2010 levels, beginning in 2015.

The EPA standard has come under fire, however. Senator James Inhofe, R-Okla, attempted to repeal the standard, assisted by both Senators Cornyn and Hutchison from Texas.

In the study, “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States,” NRDC also found that coal- and oil-fired power plants still contribute nearly half (44 percent) of all the toxic air pollution reported to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The report also ranks the states by the amount of their toxic air pollution levels.

How did other states fair in this analysis?

NDRC started releasing its “Toxic 20″ list in 2011. The list is created using publicly available data in the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), a national database of toxic emissions self-reported by industrial sources to rank states by air pollution levels from 2009.

Despite the overall reductions in total emissions, 18 of the Toxic 20 from 2009 remain in the 2010 list released this week, although several states have made significant improvements highlighted in the report.

The states on the “Toxic 20″ list (from worst to best) are:

1. Kentucky
2. Ohio
3. Pennsylvania
4. Indiana
5. West Virginia
6. Florida
7. Michigan
8. North Carolina
9. Georgia
10. Texas
11. Tennessee
12. Virginia
13. South Carolina
14. Alabama
15. Missouri
16. Illinois
17. Mississippi
18. Wisconsin
19. Maryland
20. Delaware

Source: April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

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