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America's most wanted: Power plants urged to clean up their act
On the eve of Earth Day 2000, whose theme is clean energy, an environmental group has blown the whistle on nearly 600 of the nation's dirtiest power plants.
"Cleaning up these plants is the single most effective way to make our air safe to breathe and to protect our environment from toxic pollution and global warming," said Angela Ledford, campaign director of Clear The Air, the National Campaign Against Dirty Power.
The principal offenders - 594 in all - are cited in a report, Lethal Legacy: The Dirty Truth About the Nation's Most Polluting Power Plants, which ranks the dirtiest power plants, states and companies for each of four pollutants: nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and carbon dioxide.
Together, the 594 power plants emit more than 2 billion tons of pollutants that cause smog, acid rain, mercury pollution and global warming.
Environmentalists say loopholes in the Clean Air Act allow older power plants to emit 10 times as much nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide as newer plants and permit all power plants to spew unlimited quantities of mercury and carbon dioxide.
"The idea of the Clean Air Act is that you make clean air by making new plants clean and the old ones would retire," said Rebecca Stanfield, a staff attorney with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. "What has happened is that the old plants have not retired."
Nitrogen oxide causes smog. Sulfur dioxide produces fine particulate matter and acid rain. Mercury contaminates fish and, when ingested by pregnant or nursing women, can cause neurological damage. Carbon dioxide has been linked by many of the world's scientists to global warming.
According to the report, 58 million children under the age of 17, 28 million senior citizens over the age of 65, 31 million people who suffer from asthma and 15 million people with chronic emphysema or chronic bronchitis live in counties that are entirely or partially within a 50-mile radius of the offending power plants.
Sen. Jim Jeffords, R-Vermont, author of the Clean Energy Act, a bill to clean up the polluting power plants, joined PIRG in releasing the report.
"It is long past time for this industry to make a transition to clean, safe energy sources," Jeffords said. "The public can no longer tolerate the health and environmental threats caused by continued reliance on old, dirty coal plants."
The Southern Company, based in Atlanta, Georgia, is the dirtiest power plant, according to the report. Its plants supply power to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
The Baldwin plant in Illinois is the worst offender for sulfur dioxide pollution. The Paradise plant in Kentucky is the dirtiest for nitrogen oxide pollution. The Keystone plant in Pennsylvania tops the list for mercury emissions, and the Scherer plant in Georgia is the dirtiest for carbon dioxide emissions.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
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