Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas worst polluters of power plant toxins, says report; though power plants comprise small number of facilities, emissions dwarf other industrial sectors
December 7, 2011
– With EPA Poised to Take Long-Overdue Action, WV, GA, AL, MI, FL, NC, ND, MO, WY, and SC Comprise Balance of 15 States With Worst Air Releases of Key Toxic Chemicals; Power Plants in Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee, and Puerto Rico Also Ranked Worst For Key Toxics.
The dirtiest power plants in the nation continue to generate a disproportionate amount of toxic pollutants – including arsenic, chromium, hydrochloric acid, lead, mercury, nickel, and selenium – tracked in a new analysis by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) released today by EIP, Earthjustice, and the Sierra Club.
According to the new EIP report, the dozen dirtiest power plants in the U.S. in terms of sheer pounds of emissions of four highly toxic heavy metals – arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury – are: (1) Plum Point Station, AR; (2) TVA’s Paradise Plant, KY; (3) Genon’s Shawville Station, PA; (4) Basin Electric’s Laramie River Station, WY; (5) Consumers Energy’s JH Campbell Plant, MI; (6) AES Puerto Rico LP, PR; (7) Edison International’s Homer City Plant, PA; (8) Consumers Energy’s De Karn/JC Weadock Generating Plant, MI; (9) FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, PA; (10) Southern Company’s Bowen Plant, GA; (11) Basin Electric’s Antelope Valley Station, ND; and (12) Luminant’s Monticello Power Plant, TX.
Based on overall rankings for the toxic pollutants reviewed in the EIP report, the five worst states identified are (starting with the bottom-ranked states):
1. Pennsylvania (#1 rankings for arsenic and lead);
2. Ohio (#2 rankings for mercury and selenium);
3. Indiana (#4 rankings for chromium and nickel);
4. Kentucky (#2 for arsenic); and
5. Texas (#1 rankings for mercury and selenium).
The balance of the 15 worst states for the key toxics reviewed in the report are: West Virginia; (7) Georgia; (8) Alabama; (9) Michigan (including #2 ranking for chromium and #4 for hydrochloric acid); (10) Florida; (11) North Carolina; (12) North Dakota (#3 for arsenic); (13) Missouri (#4 for mercury); (14) Wyoming; and (15) South Carolina. The EIP report also notes that other states -– including Arkansas, Iowa, Puerto Rico and Tennessee -- also among the worst in terms of emissions of certain toxic pollutants.
The EIP report is particularly timely since -- after years of inaction, litigation, study, and delay -- the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finally poised to adopt a power plant air toxics rule that will mainly target mercury, fine particulates (which contain heavy metals), and acid gases. The EPA is under a court-ordered deadline to finalize long delayed rules to clean up emissions of mercury and other harmful power plant air toxics. EPA has estimated that the power plant air toxics rule will avoid between 6,800 and 17,000 premature deaths each year, and will result in annual savings of $48 to $140 billion.
Ilan Levin, associate director, Environmental Integrity Project, said: “The only thing more shocking than the large amounts of toxic chemicals released into the air each year by coal- and oil-fired power plants, is the fact that these emissions have been allowed for so many years. For decades, the electric power industry has delayed cleanup and lobbied against public health rules designed to reduce pollution. But, the technology and pollution control equipment necessary to clean up toxic emissions are widely available and are working at some power plants across the country. There is no reason for Americans to continue to live with unnecessary risks to their health and to the environment.”
Bruce Nilles, director, Beyond Coal, Sierra Club, said: "For decades the coal industry has actively lobbied against public health rules to reduce pollution and has gotten away with it. We are eagerly awaiting the EPA finalizing on December 16 the first national commonsense safeguards to keep toxic chemicals out of our air and water."
Jim Pew, attorney, Earthjustice, said: “This report makes clear that the health damage caused by power plants’ pollution is preventable. The reason that people are still being sickened and killed by this pollution is that the worst polluters have refused to put on available control technology. They will continue to refuse until the public says ‘enough.’ We are counting on EPA to deliver that message next week, and we are counting on our elected representatives to back the agency up.”
Key report findings include the following:
* Electric power plants comprise a relatively small number of facilities, but, their toxic emissions dwarf other industrial sectors. For example:
Overall power plant toxic emissions have declined over the past decade, but the decrease is being driven by a few companies that are installing modern pollution controls while the rest of the nation’s power plants are doing very little. The EIP data show that toxic emissions can be reduced, and have been at a number of plants, but that a strong national rule is needed to protect all Americans equally, and to force the dirtiest power plants to clean up.
The new EIP report analyzes data obtained from U.S. EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), and accessible to the public at http://www.epa.gov/tri/. All the rankings in the EIP report are based on 2010 annual reported emissions, the most recent data available, from electric power utilities. The number of power plants that reported emissions of each of these toxics varies considerably from one pollutant to the next. For example, 479 U.S. power plants reported lead emissions to TRI in 2010, whereas only 59 power plants reported Selenium emissions. The number of power plants reporting emissions of Arsenic (145), Chromium (234), Mercury (452), Nickel (222), and Hydrochloric acid (413), also varies considerably. This variation is partly due to the reporting threshold for TRI. Generally, the reporting requirement is only triggered if the facility produces a total of 25,000 pounds of the chemical, although for certain highly toxic, bioaccumulative, or persistent chemicals like lead
and mercury, the reporting threshold is much lower.
The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws. EIP has three goals: 1) to provide objective analyses of how the failure to enforce or implement environmental laws increases pollution and affects public health; 2) to hold federal and state agencies, as well as individual corporations, accountable for failing to enforce or comply with environmental laws; and 3) to help local communities obtain the protection of environmental laws.