The Environmental Integrity Project is out with a must read report detailing pollution from power plants. See the link below. The data is compelling and leads me to these questions:
Why are so many in Pennsylvania and a lot of the environmental community focused largely on the environmental impacts of gas drilling, when Pennsylvania is home to 6 of the nation's 20 biggest power plant toxic polluters--all of them old, poorly controlled coal plants? Which poses the most threat to our air and water? These top power plant toxic polluters emitting huge amounts of arsenic, lead, mercury? Or natural gas production that provides a fuel that emits zero mercury, lead? These questions are not posed by the Environmental Integrity Project in its great new report on power plant pollution but should become burning inquiries, given the enormous data in the EIP report.
The good news in America's Top Power Plant Toxic Air Polluters is that nationally toxic metal emissions from electricity utilities are down from approximately 10% to 50% between 2007 and 2010. See page 4 at www.environmentalintegrity.org/12_07_2011.php. Electric power plants burning coal and oil, however, continue to emit much more toxic pollution than any other industrial source, approaching 50% of the nation's total.
The bad news is that Pennsylvania has 6 of the 20 biggest power plant toxic polluters (see page 6) in the nation and that still large amounts of lead, arsenic, mercury, chromium, nickel, and selenium are dumped into America's air and water. Also distressingly, the amount of arsenic pollution emitted in Pennsylvania has actually risen since 2001, and Pennsylvania power plants emit more arsenic and lead than any other state's. Or bluntly stated, we are number 1 in arsenic and lead power plant pollution.
The data in this report confirms four things:
1. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision overturning in 2009 the state mercury rule that the Rendell Administration successfully enacted over huge opposition was a public health disaster.
2. The EPA's proposed Air Toxic Rule is desperately needed in Pennsylvania to protect human health.
3. The top 20 power plant toxic polluters identified in this report must install modern pollution controls or switch to gas or other cleaner burning fuels.
4. The failure to use more gas to clean our air is a massive public policy, economic, and health mistake.
It is extremely unfortunate that the gas industry and the environmental community do not make common cause on critical issues where their mutual interests are aligned, like the EPA's proposed Air Toxic Rule or using more gas and less coal and oil, while agreeing to disagree on other important issues. The failure to cooperate hurts the gas industry, environmental protection, public health, and our economy.
Sometimes fighting takes on its own momentum and "logic."