Kentucky leads nation in toxic pollution from power plants
Residents of Kentucky are exposed to more toxic air pollution from coal-burning power plants than in any other state, according to an analysis released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Nationally, the report found an overall 19 percent decrease in all air toxics emitted from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available, compared to 2009 levels. But in Kentucky there was an 11 percent increase in toxic emissions during the same period. (Note: this figure is updated from the original release which reported a 27 percent increase.)
This represents more than 40 million pounds of harmful chemicals dumped into Kentucky communities in 2010, accounting for 78 percent of total pollution in the state.
In addition, three of the 10 dirtiest power plants in the nation operate in Kentucky – the TVA Paradise plant in Muhlenberg County, the Big Sandy plant in Lawrence County operated by American Electric Power and the Mill Creek plant in Louisville operated by Louisville Gas & Electric.
Despite Kentucky's poor pollution record – which results in billions of dollars in individual and public health care costs – most of Kentucky's Congressional delegation consistently votes to block new air pollution limits.
In June, Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul voted to block the EPA’s new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for power plants. These standards are designed to reduce emissions of mercury – a neurotoxin that harms children’s developing brains and nervous systems – by 90 percent and reduce emissions of other toxins that are known or suspected carcinogens.
Last fall, Reps. Ed Whitfield, Brett Guthrie, Geoff Davis, Hal Rogers and Ben Chandler voted three times to expose the public to more toxic air emissions. Only Rep. John Yarmuth voted for cleaner air (twice, he was absent for the third vote).
In addition, state legislators have failed to enact any meaningful laws to protect the public from this toxic air pollution.
The electric sector is the largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in the United States. In 2010 coal and oil-fired power plants alone accounted for nearly 44 percent of all reported toxic pollution from industrial sources.
You can download a presentation with these findings here: Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States.