NRDC Claims 'Gang of Eight' Utilities Spent Millions Lobbying and Litigating Against EPA

June 21, 2012
The National Resources Defense Council claims eight leading U.S. utilities spent millions of dollars lobbying and litigating to block, weaken or delay major Clean Air Act safeguards, while their coal-fired power plants emitted enough pollution to contribute to nearly 10,400 deaths and as much as $78 billion in health care costs.

In "The Price of Pollution Politics," NRDC links the 2010 to 2012 lobbying expenditures and litigation to the pollution and associated health impacts of these utilities: AEP (Columbus, Ohio); Ameren, (Collinsville, Ill.); DTE Energy,(Detroit); Energy Future Holdings (Dallas); FirstEnergy (Akron, Ohio); GenOn (Houston); PPL (Allentown, Pa.); and Southern Co. (Atlanta, GA). The analysis estimates health impacts based on 2011 emissions reported to EPA.

"The 'Gang of Eight' utilities are putting their profits over protecting kids and communities from deadly and dangerous air pollution," said Pete Altman, climate and clean air campaign director at NRDC. "Without these health protections from the Clean Air Act, we will see more premature deaths, asthma attacks and other illnesses every year, together with billions of dollars in estimated health costs that go with them. We want to see these companies focus their money on cleaning up pollution rather than using litigation and lobbying to delay important improvements in clean air protections. "

According to NRDC, the coal-fired power plants owned by the eight companies generated enough air pollution in 2011 to have contributed to as many as 10,400 deaths; 65,000 asthma attacks; 6,600 hospital and emergency room visits; and 3.4 million lost work days.

"Coal pollutants contribute to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory diseases," said Catherine Thomasson, MD, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility. "The damage they do to health is severe and widespread. It's vital that these dirty emissions be reduced. If not, thousands of Americans will needlessly suffer illnesses and premature deaths."

On June 20, the Senate did not ratify a resolution by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., to eliminate EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants.

“[This] bipartisan Senate vote is a victory for health, clean air and common sense,” said John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “…The Senate has rejected an irresponsible effort to repeal mercury and air toxics protections that are backed by science and required by law. The House Republican leadership should take note and cease its efforts to undermine the Clean Air Act; efforts the public does not support.”

The individual details for each utility are outlined in "The Price of Pollution Politics."

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