Florida is the sixth-worst state in the nation in toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council report released Aug. 10.
Florida's electric sector ranked No. 6 in industrial toxic air pollution in 2010, emitting nearly 16.7 million pounds of harmful chemicals, which accounted for 57 percent of state pollution and about 5 percent of toxic pollution from all U.S. power plants.
Florida ranked No. 15 among all states in industrial mercury air pollution from power plants with about 1,710 pounds emitted in 2010, which accounted for 75 percent of state mercury air pollution and 3 percent of U.S. electric sector mercury pollution.
The report found a 19 percent decrease nationally in all air toxics emitted from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available, compared with 2009 levels.
Compared with 2010 levels, the standard will reduce mercury pollution 79 percent from 34 tons to 7 tons by 2015. Sulfur dioxide pollution will be reduced 63 percent from 5.14 million tons in 2010 to 1.9 million tons in 2015. Hydrochloric acid gas will be reduced 95 percent from 106,000 tons in 2010 to 5,500 tons in 2015.
The drop, which includes a 4 percent decrease in mercury emissions, results from increasing use of natural gas, which is cleaner burning than coal; and installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls by many plants- in anticipation of new Environmental Protection Agency regs.
The Toxic 20
The states on the "Toxic 20" list (from worst to best) are:
5. West Virginia
8. North Carolina
13. South Carolina
"Toxic pollution is already being reduced as a result of EPA's health-protecting standards," said John Walke, NRDC clean air director. "Thanks to the agency's latest safeguards, millions of children and their families in the states hardest hit by toxic air pollution from power plants will be able to breathe easier.''
EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics standards cut mercury air pollution by 79 percent from 2010 levels beginning in 2015.
Sen. James Inhofe, R.-Okla., tried to repeal the mercury and air toxics standard: Florida Sens. Bill Nelson opposed the Inhofe resolution and Marco Rubio supported it.
"For too long, Americans have had no choice but to breathe toxic air pollution," said Franz Matzner, NRDC associate director of government affairs. "Thanks to the EPA, the air is getting cleaner."
The second edition of "Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States," found coal- and oil-fired power plants still contribute 44 percent of all the toxic air pollution reported to the EPA Toxics Release Inventory.
The report projects as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 130,000 asthma attacks, 5,700 hospital visits, 4,700 heart attacks and 2,800 cases of chronic bronchitis will be avoided in 2016. An estimated $37 billion to $90 billion in health costs will be saved and up to 540,000 sick days averted each year.
Despite the overall reductions in emissions, 18 of the Toxic 20 from 2009 remain in the 2010 list, although several states have made significant improvements.
For the full methodology, see the analysis "Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States," at: www.nrdc.org/air/toxic-power-presentation.asp.