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Power Plants Top Canada - US Air Polluters, Watchdog Says

Published by MAC on 2004-06-03

Power Plants Top Canada - US Air Polluters, Watchdog Says

Planet Ark, Story by Robert Melnbardis

June 3, 2004

MONTREAL - Coal and oil-fired power plants are the top air polluters in the United States and Canada according to most recent data, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation said yesterday.

In its 8th annual survey, the Montreal-based agency, created 10 years ago under the North American Free Trade Agreement, said power plants accounted for almost half of all industrial air emissions in 2001.

In addition, 46 of the top 50 polluters were coal and oil-fired power plants. The survey did not include gas or hydro-electric power plants.

"A big part of it is simply the appetite for energy, but a big part of it is just fuel," William Kennedy, executive director of the commission, told Reuters.

"We need to do a better job of working with industry, government and the public for cleaner fuels, better conservation, more renewable energy than what we have now."

The survey of chemical pollution from industrial facilities shows that power plants burning coal and oil produced 45 percent of the 755,502 tons of toxic air releases in 2001. Hydrochloric and sulfuric acids were the most common chemicals released as coal and oil was burned to make electricity.

Power plants, mainly those using coal, were also responsible for 64 percent of all mercury air emissions. Mercury occurs naturally in coal and is released when the fossil fuel is burned to produce electricity.

Mercury can build up in a highly toxic form as it moves up the food chain. Those exposed, especially children, can suffer neurological and developmental damage.

Total releases of mercury fell 48 percent in 2001 from 2000. "Even though you might be reducing it, it's still building up in lakes and streams and coming into the food chain," Kennedy said. In the United States, three coal-fired power plants reported the largest toxic air releases.

They were: Progress Energy's CP&L Roxboro in Semora, North Carolina, Reliant Energy's ' Keystone in Shelocta, Pennsylvania, and Georgia Power's Bowen in Cartersville, Georgia, the commission said. In Canada, Ontario Power Generation's Nanticoke Generating Station was responsible for the 10 percent increase in air emission of all toxics in the country from 1998 to 2001, the commission said. Nanticoke followed TransAlta Corp.'s Sundance Thermal Generating plant in Alberta in largest on-site air releases of mercury, the agency said.

Overall, Texas was the top polluter in 2001, followed by Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, the commission said. Together, the four reported 28 percent of total releases and transfers of toxic chemicals for the year.

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