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Coal fired power plants in U.S. pollute with impunity

Environmental activist organizations in the U.S. want the Environmental Protection Agency to hold strong on its proposals to curb emissions from coal-fired plants. This spring the EPA proposed the first ever national standards to limit toxics...


Environmental activist organizations in the U.S. want the Environmental Protection Agency to hold strong on its proposals to curb emissions from coal-fired plants. This spring the EPA proposed the first ever national standards to limit toxics dumped into waterways from coal plants.

On July 23, a group known as the Environmental Integrity Project, which includes the Sierra Club Clean Water Action, Earthjustice and Waterkeeper Alliance, released a report entitled “Closing the Floodgates: How the Coal Industry Is Poisoning Our Water and How We Can Stop It.” The report, based on a study of 274 coal plants found that they have become by far the largest source of toxic water pollution in the U.S. based on toxicity. The study said power plants have been allowed to use U.S. waterways and water supplies “as their own private dumping grounds for more than three decades — in direct violation of the Clean Water Act.”

The study found, for example, that nearly 70% of the 274 plants surveyed have no limits on discharges such as arsenic, boron, cadmium, lead, mercury, and selenium. As a result these toxics are dumped directly into rivers, lakes, streams and bays.

Nearly half of the plants surveyed (187) were operating with an expired Clean Water Act permit and 53 of these were operating with permits that expired five or more years ago.

The environmentalists also say that coal industry lobbyists are working behind the scenes to weaken the safeguards proposed in new EPA rules, even though the draft rules “are affordable for utilities and ratepayers.”

And they single out several states for their coal plant polluting ways: Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.