Kentucky Tops Southern-Dominated “Toxic 20” Air Polluting States
Sunday, August 12, 2012
The American South is a region of many traditions, among the most durable of which is hostility to government programs to protect the environment and public health. The consequences of that tradition are laid bare in a report released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States.” The report ranks states based on levels of toxic air pollution, including mercury, sulfur dioxide, and hydrochloric acid, reported to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010. Toxic air pollution results largely from burning coal or oil to generate electric power.
The report reveals the top 20 states — dubbed the “Toxic 20” — where residents are at greater risk of myriad health problems simply by breathing. Twelve of the “Toxic 20” are in the South, and six of the remaining eight states border Dixie. The states on the list (from worst to best, with Southern states in italics) are:
Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Delaware.
Because of the EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which were finalized in 2011, toxic pollution from power plants is expected to decline over the next few years. Compared to 2010 levels, by 2015 MATS will cut mercury pollution by 79%, sulfur dioxide by 63%, and hydrochloric acid by 95%. The EPA expects these improvements to yield better public health, including averting up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks every year.
Nevertheless, the coal, oil, and electric utility industries are still trying to block these pollution reductions, with assistance from their friends in Congress. Ironically, many of those fossil fuel friends hail from the Southern states that will benefit most from the MATS. The report points out that of the Toxic 20, both senators from eight states — Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi — supported a resolution by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) to stop the safeguards.
- Matt Bewig
To Learn More:
NRDC Rates Top 20 Most Toxic States (Common Dreams)
Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate our Air and States (Natural Resources Defense Council) (pdf)
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