(See the list below the fold.)
In this case, as you can see from the graphic, Dominion Virginia Power's emissions of major pollutants - SO2, NOx, and Mercury (Hg) have been plummeting, and are forecast to continue plummeting in coming years. Now, obviously, a lot of that is due to Dominion simply complying with what the law makes them do, while another part is due to Dominion switching away from dirty coal to cheaper - and also cleaner - natural gas. In addition, I'd really like to see a similar graph for what's arguably the most important emission of all - carbon dioxide, which is contributing to potentially catastrophic global warming. Still, what this graph displays is progress, and I think it's fair to give Dominion at least some credit for that.
It's decisions like this one which are exactly why we all need to vote for Democrats, not Republicans. No, Democrats aren't perfect by any means, but can you imagine this type of pro-environment move coming from a Gingrich or Romney or Perry or Paul administration? No, I didn't think so.
For more on this historic action towards protection of our air and water, see here. Also check out David Roberts' analysis, which concludes that this one is a "bona fide Big Deal" - in a very good way.
New Data Reveals the Heaviest Mercury Polluters in Virginia
Dominion is the biggest mercury polluter in the state; while American Electric Power (AEP) claims the title of biggest in the nation
ALEXANDRIA, VA - Today, representatives from Environment Virginia and the Sierra Club released new data on airborne mercury pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants throughout the nation with an emphasis on Virginia. The data reveals Dominion as the biggest mercury polluter in the state with a total of 491 pounds while American Electric Power (AEP) claims the title as biggest mercury polluter in the nation with 6,220 pounds emitted in 2010.
Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that harms children and pollutes the environment. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the country; emitting 2/3 of all airborne mercury pollution. Once in the air, mercury falls into waterways with rain or snow, where it builds up in fish and enters the food chain. Even a small drop of mercury is enough to make the fish in a 25-acre lake unsafe to eat.
"Parents in Virginia shouldn't have to worry that their children's bodies are toxic dumping grounds," said Caroline Kory, State Associate for Environment Virginia. "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving forward to protect our children's health from toxic mercury pollution, and we can't let big polluters stand in the way."
The key thing to remember is that these are some of the most heavily subsidized jobs in the U.S. economy. They are subsidized at a level that makes anything Obama did with the stimulus bill look like pocket change.The Alexandria plant alone was estimated to kill 37 people & sicken hundreds of others every single year. But the coal industry keeps looking for someone to blame, and it's not just on the human costs of its pollution. As Coal Tattoo's Ken Ward Jr. reports, coal companies are desperately trying to pin falling Appalachian production on regulations & conservationists. That's instead of accepting the simple fact that the low-hanging fruit of Appalachian coal has long since been picked and what little is left is getting more & more expensive to blast out. For today's coal industry, reality is hard to face.
Why is that so? Well, it's widely known by now, at least in economist circles, that the coal power industry grossly underpays for the damages it does. That's the unanimous conclusion of a flurry of new research that's been done on the question: see, e.g., the National Research Council (NRC), Harvard Medical School's Paul Epstein, or last week's bombshell from Yale's William Nordhaus and colleagues, which found that coal-fired power plants do 21 cents of unpaid damages for every single kilowatt hour of power they produce. Economists call these costs "externalities," but really they amount to subsidies -- the public is paying these costs on the coal companies' behalf. [...]
And these subsidies are not investments that pay back over time, like loans to innovative renewable energy firms. These subsidies come in the form of babies with birth defects, asthmatic kids, and adults with respiratory and heart ailments. These subsidies pay negative returns. They subtract value. All in the name of propping up a dying industry.
The Environmental Protection Agency is planning new rules to limit the toxic pollutants such as mercury, but those limits are coming under attack from friends of coal & oil in Congress:
The EPA estimates that the reductions of toxic pollution required by the pending "Mercury and Air Toxics" standard would save as many as 17,000 lives every year by 2015 and prevent up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms. The safeguards also would avoid more than 12,000 emergency room and hospital visits and prevent 850,000 lost work days every year. These standards are expected to be finalized in November; the agency is taking public comments on its proposal until Aug. 4, 2011.Tell the EPA, Senators Warner & Webb, and your member of the U.S. House to back strong mercury pollution standards.
"Coal pollution is killing Americans," said Lynn Ringenberg, MD, of Physicians for Social Responsibility. "It is America's biggest source of toxic air pollution. Air toxics from coal-fired power plants cause cancer, birth defects, and respiratory illness. Just one of those air toxics, mercury, damages the developing brains of fetuses, infants, and small children. It robs our children of healthy neurological development and native intelligence.
"Poisonous power threatens the health of our kids and families. As a pediatrician for over thirty years, I urge us absolutely to support the EPA's efforts to reduce the health threat from coal."