South dominates list of nation's filthiest power plants
To find the dirtiest power plants in the United States, head south.
A majority of the nation's most heavily polluting power plants are located in Southern states, according to a report released last week by the Environmental Integrity Project, a nonprofit organization pushing for stronger enforcement of anti-pollution laws. Titled "Dirty Kilowatts: America's Most Polluting Power Plants," the report ranks the worst power plants on the basis of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury.
Of the 50 U.S. power plants emitting the largest amount of all the pollutants considered, the majority -- 31 facilities in all -- are located in the South. In fact, all of the nation's 11 top polluting power plants are located in just two Southern states: Alabama and Arkansas.
The heavily polluting Alabama plants are owned by the Southern Company, Southern Power, Alabama Power, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Alabama Electric Co-op. The Arkansas plants are owned by Entergy Arkansas and Southwestern Electric Power Co.
Of the dozen states with the heaviest concentrations of dirty plants in terms of carbon dioxide emitted, the majority are in the South. Texas has five (including two of the top 10 dirtiest plants); Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and West Virginia each have three; and Florida and Kentucky each have two.
EIP's revelations come as utility companies across the region are racing to build a new generation of coal-fired power plants that rely on conventional technologies responsible for emitting large quantities of greenhouse gases as well as health-damaging pollutants. Mercury, for example, is a potent nerve poison already present at health-endangering levels in many of the South's streams and lakes.
"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," said Southern Alliance for Clean Energy spokesperson Valerie True. "Proposals for new coal-fired power plants are popping up across the nation. 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."
To learn more about the most polluting power plants in your state, visit EIP's "Dirty Kilowatts" database.
Sue is the editorial director of Facing South and the Institute for Southern Studies.