Toxic air pollution generated by Pennsylvania power plants represents 10 percent of the total from all U.S. power plants.
But some good news can make Pennsylvanians breathe a bit easier: From 2009 to 2010, total toxic air pollution from all sources in the state dropped by 20 percent, including a 24 percent decline in toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants.
On Thursday, the Natural Resources Defense Council released its second annual report, “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate our Air and States,” which lists the 20 states that produce the most toxic pollution. Pennsylvania improved slightly in its ranking, falling from second place in 2011 (based on 2009 data) with 50.5 million pounds of total toxic emissions to third place this year (based on 2010 data) with 40.3 million pounds.
Nationwide, the electric industry is responsible for the bulk of U.S. pollution blamed for global warming, according to the data, which were released Wednesday in the government’s first public catalog of individual polluters. Power plants accounted for 72 percent of the greenhouse gases reported to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for 2010.
Specifically, the main culprit is coal, which is as cheap as it is dirty. Twenty mostly coal-fired power plants in 15 states were among the worst polluters.
Among the biggest offenders in Pennsylvania were PPL’s Brunner Island plant in York County and its Montour plant in Montour County. Together, they spewed the equivalent of 18.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas.