NRDC Reveals the 20 States that Face the Most Air Pollution from Power Plants

July 25, 2011
If you live in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida or Kentucky, your state has a dubious claim to fame: It contains some of the nation’s worst air pollution caused by power plants.

A new analysis of EPA data, “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States” was released July 20 by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR). The study used publicly available data in the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a national database of toxic emissions self-reported by industrial sources.

In its findings, NRDC’s analysis lists the top 20 states facing the most toxic air pollution resulting from these power plants – with Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida leading the pack. From worst to best, the states on the “Toxic 20” list include:

  1. Ohio
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Florida
  4. Kentucky
  5. Maryland
  6. Indiana
  7. Michigan
  8. West Virginia
  9. Georgia
  10. North Carolina
  11. South Carolina
  12. Alabama
  13. Texas
  14. Virginia
  15. Tennessee
  16. Missouri
  17. Illinois
  18. Wisconsin
  19. New Hampshire
  20. Iowa

The analysis found that nearly half of all toxic air pollution reported from industrial sources in the United States comes coal- and oil-fired power plants. In fact, power plants are the single largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in 28 states and the District of Columbia. As a result, NRDC called for tougher standards for power plants.

“Power plants are the biggest industrial toxic air polluters in our country, putting children and families at risk by dumping deadly and dangerous poisons into the air we breathe," said Dan Lashof, Climate Center director at NRDC. "Members of Congress who consider blocking toxic pollution safeguards should understand that this literally will cost American children and families their health and lives.”

EPA estimates that the reductions of toxic pollution required by the pending Mercury and Air Toxics standard would save as many as 17,000 lives every year by 2015 and prevent up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms. The safeguards also would avoid more than 12,000 emergency room and hospital visits and prevent 850,000 lost workdays every year. These standards are expected to be finalized in November. EPA will accept public comments on its proposal until Aug. 4.

About the Author

Laura Walter

Laura Walter was formerly senior editor of EHS Today. She is a subject matter expert in EHS compliance and government issues and has covered a variety of topics relating to occupational safety and health. Her writing has earned awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the Trade Association Business Publications International (TABPI) and APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. Her debut novel, Body of Stars (Dutton) was published in 2021.

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