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Meet The Power Plants

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07 December 2011, 12:47 PM
The nation's worst toxic air polluters need to be better neighbors
Hatfield's Ferry coal plant. Photo: Chris Jordan / Earthjustice

Imagine you live in a neighborhood full of families. There are many nice people, but a few households are real menaces. They're loud, they burn things in the backyard, and they drive around so fast that you're worried they're going to run someone down

The neighborhood bands together and one-by-one succeeds in getting these menaces to settle down. But there's a holdout—and it's the worst of all. The noise from that place is tremendous, the fires they burn are bigger than anyone's, and they drive with their eyes closed.

Meet the power plant family, America's worst toxic air polluters.

For 22 years, power plants have used their political clout to avoid controlling the unrivaled amounts of toxic air pollution they generate, even while other major polluters have taken steps to clean up. That obstruction has resulted in years of unaddressed disease, premature death and other major problems that result from the soot, arsenic, mercury and other toxics that power plants put in the air we breathe.

As the EPA prepares to release the first-ever clean air standards for power plants on Dec. 16, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) today released a report highlighting the states that are suffering most from this unaddressed toxic threat. Atop the list are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Texas.

The report demonstrates that a small group of exceptionally dirty power plants across the country are responsible for the majority of toxic air pollution blanketing the country. Earthjustice's Jim Pew, a staff attorney whose litigation helped to break the multi-decade log jam that allowed power plants to pollute without limit, participated in a telepress conference today about the report. He said that the fact that many plants are successfully controlling their pollution indicates that others can do the same. The technology to reduce toxic air pollution exists and has been on the market for years. The national standards that EPA is set to release next week are necessary to ensure that the bad actors—the dirty plants featured in the EIP report—are held accountable for their lack of modern technology to control pollution.

Earthjustice has been working for years to make power plants a better neighbor by securing strong standards to control their pollution. Let's hope that what the EPA releases next year is what we've been working for. Power plants' grip over the neighborhood has gone on long enough. 

Here's the full ranking of states based on levels of eight toxic pollutants that power plants release:

State rankings

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