by The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC)
The electric sector is the largest industrial (stack) source of toxic air pollution in the United States. In fact, in 2010 coal and oil-fired power plants alone accounted for nearly 44 percent of all reported toxic pollution from industrial sources. Thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), however, toxic pollution from power plants should decline dramatically over the next several years.
The EPA recently finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) which requires significant reductions in mercury and air toxic emissions. Compared to 2010 levels, the standard will reduce mercury pollution from 34 tons to 7 tons, a 79% reduction, by p y 2015. Sulfur dioxide pollution will be reduced from 5,140,000 tons in 2010 to 1,900,000 tons in 2015, a 63% reduction. Another dangerous acid gas, hydrochloric acid, will be reduced from 106,000 tons in 2010 to 5,500 tons in 2015, a 95% reduction. With those and other pollution reductions resulting from the standard, as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 ast a attac s, 5, 00 osp ta s ts, , 00 ea t attac s, a d ,800 cases o c o c b o c t s be a o ded 30,000 asthma attacks, 5,700 hospital visits, 4,700 heart attacks, and 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis will be avoided in 2016. The public health improvements are also estimated to save $37 billion to $90 billion in health costs, and prevent up to 540,000 missed work or “sick” days each year.Despite the significant benefit to public health, power companies continue to sue to block the pollution reductions, and some some in Congress have repeatedly sought to repeal weaken or delay the standards However as long as Congress in Congress have repeatedly sought to repeal, weaken, or delay the standards. However, as long as Congress and the courts allow the EPA to do its job, the threat from toxic power will decline significantly in the future.
The Toxic Twenty states are the top states responsible for a disproportionate share of toxic emissions from the U.S. electric sector. In 2010, these Toxic Twenty states accounted for approximately 92% of of electric sector toxic air pollution electric sector toxic air pollution and 72% of electric sector mercury emissions.
For comparison, in 2010, these same states accounted for just 62% of electricity generation , 54% of total U.S. population, and 50% of total U.S. economic output.
Residents of the Toxic Twenty and surrounding states may be exposed to dangerous levels of toxic pollution and could face increased risk of certain health disorders.
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