CHARLESTON, W.VA. -- January 27 -- As a key U.S. Senate committee considers the Bush administrations bill to delay and weaken clean air safeguards, a new Clear the Air report released today by several West Virginia Environmental groups and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) finds that 64% percent of West Virginias oldest and dirtiest power plants are getting dirtier, not cleaner.
When it comes to power plant pollution, many of West Virginias dirtiest power plants just keep getting dirtier, said U.S. PIRG Clean Air Organizer Debra Gemme. Pollution from power plants fuels global warming and causes serious health problems, including asthma attacks, heart and lung disease, and even premature deaths.
With research finding adverse health effects from air pollution at levels once considered safe, more people than ever live in areas that fail to meet national health standards.
According to the new report, annual soot-forming sulfur dioxide (SO2) and smog-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions increased at many of West Virginias oldest and dirtiest power plants from 1995 to 2003, even while the Clean Air Act reduced power plant emissions of the pollutants statewide. The laws cap-and-trade rules allow dirtier plants to forego cleanup by buying pollution credits from cleaner facilities. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions increased at most power plants and statewide; there are no federal limits on CO2 emissions.
The Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition (formerly Citizens for Alternatives to Longview Power), West Virginia Environmental Council and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy joined U.S PIRG in releasing the report in West Virginia.
Some West Virginia citizens are paying extra for the nation to have cheap energy. The past decade shows that pollution trading puts the health of communities near the oldest and dirtiest coal burning power plants at risk. While the Clean Air Act has reduced emissions statewide, without specific requirements for every plant to meet modern pollution standards, West Virginias dirtiest power plants continue to smother their neighbors with increased amounts of pollution they belch from their plants, said Cindy Rank of the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy.
We know how to solve the air pollution problem, but the Bush administrations air pollution bill will set us back decades, Gemme said. The bill creates a permanent loophole in the law for the dirtiest power plants.
Those of us who live downwind from power plants like AEPs John Amos are needlessly subject to heavy air pollution thanks to lax enforcement of the Clean Air Act. Theres no need for Bush to legalize power companies illegal behavior, said the West Virginia Environmental Councils Denise Poole.
We have the solution at hand and thats enforcing the current Clean Air Act and getting real pollution caps in place, said Joe Lovett, Director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment. All power plants should be required to meet modern air pollution standards.
Pollution on the Rise: Local Trends in Power Plant Pollution examines U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data on power plant emissions of CO2, SO2, and NOx since 1995, the first year the Clean Air Acts Acid Rain Program capped SO2 emissions from power plants. Key findings include:
- Sixty-four percent of the states dirtiest power plants increased their annual CO2 emissions from 1995 to 2003, an emissions increase equivalent to putting 1,868,657 more average cars on West Virginias roads.
- West Virginias John E. Amos power plant in Putnam County ranked 1st in the nation for the largest net increase in annual CO2 emissions from 1995 to 2003. The plant increased its annual CO2 emissions by 6,393,582 tons, the emissions equivalent of putting 1,116,783 more average cars on West Virginias roads.
- John Amos power plant ranked 4th in the nation for the largest net increase in annual SO2 emissions from 1995 to 2003, an emissions increase equivalent to building15 typical new power plants in the state.
- John Amos power plant ranked 7th in the nation for the largest net increase in annual NOx emissions from 1995 to 2003, an emissions increase equivalent to putting 410,000 more average cars on West Virginias roads.
- 7 of West Virginias dirtiest power plants that increased their annual SO2 emissions since 1995 are located in areas that violate the national health standard for fine particle soot.
- 2 of West Virginias dirtiest power plants that increased their annual NOx emissions since 1995 (John Amos and Mitchell) are located in areas that violate the national health standard for ozone smog.
The report concludes that national caps on SO2 and NOx alone are not enough to protect the health of local communities but must work hand-in-hand with plant-specific safeguards, such as the New Source Review program, which ensures that all power plants eventually meet modern pollution standards.
The Bush administrations so-called Clear Skies bill would delay by at least a decade until after 2018 and dilute SO2 and NOx reductions called for in the Clean Air Act, repeal New Source Review for power plants, and repeal or significantly weaken other plant-specific clean air programs to rely instead on pollution trading, while ignoring global warming altogether. Earlier this month, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that the administrations bill is weaker than current law for individual power plants.
If there were requirements for truth in government labeling, the Clear Skies initiative would be called Clear Lies. We have to remember that this initiative came from vice president Dick Cheneys secret meetings with energy executives and their lobbyists. This exclusive club of the nations biggest polluters had been pushing for years to replace the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act with this cap and trade scheme, said Vivian Stockman, project coordinator for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. Theyve been salivating for this change, and they sure werent thinking about our kids lungs when they colluded on this plan.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate Change, and Nuclear Safety is holding a hearing on the administrations bill today.
I hope Senators Byrd and Rockefeller will join with medical professionals and public health advocates in publicly opposing the Bush administrations bill, said Poole.
The report recommends that EPA and federal and state lawmakers:
- Enforce existing Clean Air Act programs, including New Source Review, designed to ensure that every community has healthy air;
- As a first step, pass a national cap that limits CO2 emissions economy-wide to 2000 levels by 2010;
- Strengthen and finalize EPAs proposed Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) to cap SO2 and NOx emissions from power plants in the eastern U.S. at 1.8 million tons and 1 million tons, respectively, by the end of the decade, as the law requires; and
- Strengthen the Clean Air Acts existing programs to further reduce all four major power plant pollutants. -- CO2, So2, NOx and mercury.