From Epoch Times:

Coal and oil-burning power plants have long been responsible for much of the nation’s air pollution. But a new report says that these facilities have managed to avoid emissions standards that every other industry has had to observe for decades.

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) last week released an analysis identifying the nation’s most polluting power plants. Using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory, the report examined power plant emissions of four highly toxic heavy metals. They found that most of the mercury, arsenic, and selenium released into our air can be traced to a relatively small of amount facilities.

“Half of all the mercury in the U.S. today comes from approximately 500 existing coal fired power plants,” said Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal initiative, in a conference call for the report.

EIP associate director Ilan Levin added that only 47 facilities were responsible for “almost 60 percent of all power plant chromium emissions nationwide.”

“These chemicals are listed as hazardous air toxics for a reason—at high levels they are dangerous to people and the environments,” continued Levin. “For example, arsenic and chromium are human carcinogens, lead and mercury exposure are known to harm brain and nervous system development in infants and children. These are dangerous chemicals.”

Overall toxic emissions have declined over the past decade. But the EIP says the decrease is being driven by a few companies that are installing modern pollution controls, while the rest of the nation’s power plants are doing very little.

Nilles explained that the coal industry has managed to skirt regulations since 1990, when Congress put in place requirements for all other industries to take steps toward tougher pollution controls. When the legislation was passed, power plants were granted a special exemption, and the EPA was required to conduct a study to examine whether controlling power plant pollution was necessary and appropriate.

“If you step back and think about that, this loophole is pretty remarkable,” observed James Pew attorney for Earthjustice. “It’s essentially saying for an industrial category that everybody already knew was the worst polluter the EPA had to determine whether it was worth controlling.”

While the required study confirmed that power plants were indeed a major source of pollution, stricter standards were further delayed during the Bush administration. The industry insisted that curbing emissions was an impossible task, and some lawmakers were concerned that harsher regulations would significantly raise energy costs.

But experts say that the technology and pollution control equipment necessary to clean up toxic emissions has been widely available for years, and has already been working at some power plants across the country.

“This is not something we don’t know how to fix,” continued Nilles. “There are readily available technologies that are able to address mercury pollution and a host of other toxic pollutants that come from coal burning. We know from EPA studies that go back a decade that there is pollution technology available that would reduce mercury emissions 90 percent—from current levels of 34 tons to 5 tons.”

More.

Image from Flickr.

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