Emissions of air toxics from power plants were 19 percent lower in 2010 than
in the previous year, the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a report
released Aug. 9.
The reduction can be attributed to utilities installing pollution controls on
coal-fired power plants and choosing to operate some plants with natural gas
rather than coal, John Walke, NRDC's clean air director, said during a telephone
news conference. He called the decrease a “very welcome drop in toxic
Nationwide, the electric power sector emitted 310 million pounds of toxic air
pollution in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available in the
Environmental Protection Agency's Toxics Release Inventory,
a database of emissions reported by industry.
The top-emitting states were Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, whose power
plant toxic releases totaled 40.6 million, 36.4 million, and 31.5 million
Ninety-two percent of the country's air toxics emissions from the power
sector came from only 20 states. Those same states account for 54 percent of the
country's population and 62 percent of electricity generation, according to the
The power sector is the largest emitter of air toxics from industrial sources
in the nation. Coal- and oil-fired power plants emitted 44 percent of the air
toxics in 2010, according to the report. The chemical sector was responsible for
16 percent of air toxics emissions, and paper product facilities accounted for
NRDC is expecting even more dramatic emission reductions in the coming years
as EPA's mercury and air toxics standards for power plants go into effect. In
2015, mercury emissions should drop 79 percent, sulfur dioxide emissions should
drop 63 percent, and hydrochloric acid emissions should drop 95 percent, when
compared to 2010 levels, the report said.
“We have a long way to go to reduce toxic pollution from power plants,” Walke
NRDC first evaluated air toxics emissions from power plants in a July 2011 report, which found
that Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida were the states with the highest levels of
toxic emissions, based on 2009 data (140 DER A-1, 7/21/11).
By Jessica Coomes
The NRDC report, Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and
States, is available at http://www.nrdc.org/air/files/toxic-power-presentation.pdf.
The Toxics Release Inventory is available at http://www.epa.gov/tri/tridotnet/index.html.