50 Dirtiest U.S. Power Plants Named

WASHINGTON, DC, July 26, 2007 (ENS) - Nevada Power's Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant has a higher emission rate of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than any other power plant in the United States, according to a new ranking issued today by the Environmental Integrity Project.

The Project is a nonprofit group created by former U.S. EPA enforcement attorneys. Their report ranks the 378 largest power plants in the country based on company-reported data.

When it comes to total tons of carbon dioxide emitted, Georgia's Scherer power plant tops the list, owned and operated by Southern Company's Georgia Power.

Nevada Power's Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant (Photo courtesy DCNR)

When it comes to total tons of carbon dioxide emitted, the Scherer power plant, owned by Southern Company's Georgia Power, tops the list.

PSI Energy's R. Gallagher power plant in Indiana ranks highest for the rate of sulfur dioxide emissions. Sulfur dioxide, SO2, is a main component of acid rain.

In terms of the total tons of SO2 emitted, Georgia Power's Bowen power plant heads the list.

Coal-fired power plants are by far the greatest emitters of sulfur dioxide pollution, accounting for 67 percent of all SO2 emissions nationwide.

Nitrogen oxides are precursors of smog, and Indiana's Bailly power plant, owned by Northern Indiana Public Service, has the nation's highest emissions rate.

By total tons of nitrogen oxides emitted, the worst offender is New Mexico's Four Corners power plant, owned by Arizona Public Service.

Indiana's Bailly power plant (Photo courtesy NIPS)
The 12 states with the heaviest concentrations of the dirtiest power plants, in terms of total tons of carbon dioxide emitted, are - Texas, which has five, including two of the top 10 dirtiest plants; Pennsylvania with four; Indiana with four, including two of the top 10 dirtiest plants; Alabama with three; Georgia with three, including two of the top three dirtiest plants; North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia have three apiece; while Wyoming, Florida, Kentucky and New Mexico each have two.

Nitrogen oxides are precursors of smog, and the power plant with the worst emissions rate in the country is Indiana's Bailly power plant, owned by Northern Indiana Public Service.

By total tons of nitrogen oxides emitted, the worst offender is New Mexico's Four Corners power plant, owned by Arizona Public Service.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides dropped slightly in 2006, and are expected to decline still further in eastern states over the next five years.

Rules to limit the interstate transport of NOx during the summer ozone season in eastern states were adopted in the late nineties and emission ceilings have been ratcheted steadily downward by law. There is no such law in the West.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury air pollution, accounting for 40 percent of all mercury emissions nationwide.

The plant with the highest rate of mercury emissions is H.W. Pirkey in Texas, owned by American Electric Power, and the plant pumping out the highest mercury tonnage is also in Texas - the Martin Lake facility owned by TXU Generation Co.

Power plant mercury emissions remained steady in 2006 as compared to previous years, the report finds.

Environmental Integrity Project attorney Ilan Levin said, While Congress is poised to seriously consider legislation to limit the greenhouse gases that made 2006 the hottest year on record, the electric power industry is racing to build a new fleet of coal-fired power plants that rely on conventional combustion technologies that would only accelerate global warming."

Once utility companies secure their air pollution permits, Levin expects them to argue that these new plants should be grandfathered, or exempt from any pending limits on greenhouse gases.

Levin says today's rush to coal reminds him of the 1970s.

"When the original Clean Air Act was passed in 1970," he said, "the electric utility industry persuaded Congress to not impose strict pollution controls on old power plants, because they would soon be replaced by newer state-of-the-art facilities. Yet despite the industry's promises, many of the nation's oldest and dirtiest power plants continue to operate today."

"Americans pay the bill for that delay when they suffer the ill health consequences of breathing needlessly dirty air," he said.

Valerie True, spokesperson for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, with offices in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, said, "This report not only highlights the threats from old power plants, but the future risk should utility customers be forced to pay for the expansion of this dirty form of energy."

"Proposals for new coal-fired power plants are popping up across the nation," True said, "Given the imminent risks of global warming, the nation needs to take immediate action to clean up these old power plants and stop the construction of new coal-fired plants."

While carbon dioxide emissions from power plants are now at roughly 2.5 billion tons per year, more than 150 new coal-fired power plants are being permitted and built across the country, the Environmental Integrity Project points out, a trend that can only increase carbon dioxide emissions.

"Absent aggressive national climate policy and the retirement of existing facilities, these new coal plants will contribute to a projected 34 percent increase in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions over the 2005-2030 period," according to the report.

Four Corners power plant (Photo courtesy SRP)

Already coping with the highest emissions of nitrogen oxides, Navajo communities in the Four Corners area have been at a standoff with Sithe Global Power and the Dine Power Authority over the construction of Desert Rock, a 1,500 megawatt coal fired power plant that would cost 2.2 billion dollars to build and sit on 580 acres about 30 miles southwest of Farmington.

At a time when tribes, cities, states and nations are working to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the Desert Rock plant would increase them.

"It is blatant environmental racism and injustice when you place a third power plant in an impoverished community with little or no access to healthcare," said Lori Goodman of Dine CARE. "For our elders and future generations, we vow to fight this intrusion upon our people's health and way of life."

About two-thirds of the heat energy that is consumed at a typical coal-fired power plant is wasted, and that inefficiency contributes directly to high CO2 emissions from these facilities, the report states.

Technically, eliminating CO2 emissions from existing power plants is not possible, but the report suggests that reducing electricity demand, through energy efficiency and conservation measures, would yield significant CO2 reductions in the near-term, while new technologies develop.

To view the full report with tables of all the 50 dirtiest power plants in the United States, click here.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.