Friday AM March 19th, 2010

More than half of those power plants singled out for high levels of mercury emissions have actually increased their emissions, according to a new report from the environmental integrity project. Ed Mayberry reports.

EIPThe nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project says the electric power industry has barely made a dent in its mercury emissions in the past decade--nowhere near the levels that would be achieved if all plants installed modern pollution controls.  Texas claims five of the ten largest mercury pollution sites in the nation, according to the group's Ilan Levin.

"Some plants switched coals, so some plants, for example are bringing in more coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin.  When that happens, we typically see increases in mercury emissions.  Some plants may have burned more coal, so increased their production."

Ed: "Is there technology to lessen the amount of mercury emissions, as a matter of retrofitting some older plants?"

"Yeah, absolutely.  The technology exists today—it's practically off-the-shelf pollution control technology--and every little bit helps." 

Mercury is highly toxic, and EIP says it settles in lakes and rivers, where it moves up the food chain to humans.

"We need strict enforcement of the laws that are already on the books.  I mean, there are new power plants being built in Texas today.  There's a proposal for anew coal-fired power plant just outside the Houston area called the White Stallion Energy Center.  And that plant is going to be permitted to emit about 100 pounds of mercury a year.  Now, that's still a lot of mercury, but compare that to an old plant in Texas that's emitting, you know, 1,700 pounds of mercury a year—clearly, they can do better."  

EIP's report is based on data from EPA databases, based on numbers self-reported by the electric power sector.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...