EPA Poised to Take Long-Overdue Action. For WV, GA, AL, MI, FL, NC, ND, MO, WY, and SC Comprise Balance of 15 States. All With Worst Air Releases of Key Toxic Chemicals. Wheress 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. For that’s including arsenic, chromium, hydrochloric acid, lead, mercury, nickel, and selenium. For they are all 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. For they are arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury. Moreover these power plant locations are:
- Plum Point Station, AR
- TVA’s Paradise Plant, KY
- Genon’s Shawville Station, PA
- Basin Electric’s Laramie River Station, WY
- Consumers Energy’s JH Campbell Plant, MI
- AES Puerto Rico LP, PR
- Edison International’s Homer City Plant, PA
- Consumers Energy’s De Karn/JC Weadock Generating Plant, MI
- FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, PA
- Southern Company’s Bowen Plant, GA.
- Basin Electric’s Antelope Valley Station, ND; and also
- 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):
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 an 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.
Key report findings include the following items:
Electric power plants comprise a relatively small number of facilities. However their toxic emissions dwarf other industrial sectors. For example:
Whereas literally thousands of chemical facilities and other industries reported toxic emissions to EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory in 2010. So only a few hundred power plants reported mercury and hydrochloric acid emissions. Moreover and only 59 power plants reported selenium emissions.
Yet, despite the relatively small number of facilities, electric utilities emit more arsenic, mercury, selenium, and hydrochloric acid than any other industrial sector, and the utility industry emits the second highest total emissions of chromium and nickel of all industry sectors.
- The electric power industry also emits almost two-thirds of the nation’s industrial arsenic emissions.
- Only 59 power plants representing the entire electric utility sector reported selenium emissions in 2010. Yet, the utility industry is still the top selenium emitter of all industry sectors. Thereby releasing 250,220 pounds, or 125 tons, of selenium into the nation’s air. That’s 76.3 percent of all industrial selenium emissions.
Some states have seen major drops in reported emissions of dangerous heavy metals. All the while other states have made little progress to reduce these air toxics. For example:
- Over the past decade, power plant arsenic emissions have dropped significantly in Virginia (from almost 10,000 pounds reported in 2000 to 352 pounds reported in 2010).
- As well and in Tennessee (from almost 8,000 pounds in 2000 to 637 pounds in 2010).
Power plant arsenic emissions have also dropped in New York, North Carolina, and other states.
- However, states including Georgia, Indiana, North Dakota, Texas, and Utah have remained flat. Or they have also seen only modest reductions in power plant arsenic emissions over the past decade.
- Montana has also reported a steady rise in that state’s power plant’s arsenic emissions over the past decade.
From 2009 to 2010, power plant lead emissions actually increased in 16 states.
Over the past decade, power plant lead emissions have declined significantly in North Carolina, New York, and other states, but lead emissions have held steady in other states like Texas and West Virginia.
A small handful of the nation’s most polluting power plants account for a disproportionately large amount of toxic emissions. For example:
As well, the top 20 percent of all power plant nickel emitters reported more than 90 tons of the chemical in 2010. That which also accounts for 74 percent of all power plant nickel emissions nationwide.
Toxic pollution from power plants can cause serious environmental impacts and health effects, especially for children, developing fetuses, and vulnerable populations. Exposure to the air toxics that are emitted from coal-fired power plants can cause cancer, damage to the liver, kidney, and the nervous and circulatory systems, and respiratory effects including asthma, decreased lung function, and bronchitis.
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.
Source: WASHINGTON, D.C.///December 7, 2011/// The Environmental Integrity Project (http://www.environmentalintegrity.org) 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.