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E-M:/ poisoned power report
Enviro-Mich message from email@example.com (Dave Dempsey)
For Immediate Release Contact: Dave Dempsey
Tuesday, September 23, 1997 517-487-9539
OUTDATED POWER PLANTS THREATEN HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT
LANSING -- Charging that electric power plants are the nation's "single
largest source of industrial pollution," Michigan Environmental Council
today called for modernizing outmoded plants to reduce the threat to our
health and the environment.
"In Michigan, these power plants emit millions of tons of soot, sulfur
dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, carbon dioxide and other contaminants,"
said Dave Dempsey, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council.
"These pollutants cause or contribute to fish consumption advisories, birth
defects, premature death, lung disease, asthma, acid rain and reduced
The problems are detailed in a report released by the Michigan
Environmental Council and the national Clean Air Network called "Poisoned
Power: How America's Outdated Electric Plants Harm Our Health and
The report lists emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon
dioxide from each of Michigan's electric power plants. It also notes the
emission rates of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide from every
fossil-fueled plant in the country.
The report notes that Detroit Edison Company's Monroe plant emitted more
than 118,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, more than 48,000 tons of nitrogen
oxides and nearly 20,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide in 1996. The plant is
the 13th dirtiest in the nation for nitrogen oxide emissions and the 15th
dirtiest for sulfur dioxide emissions.
Overall, Michigan was ranked the 13th dirtiest state in the nation for both
nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide emissions and 14th dirtiest for sulfur
Nationally, the report notes, electric power plants produce two-thirds of
all emissions of sulfur dioxide, a precursor of fine soot particles, acid
rain and regional haze. Power companies also produce 29 percent of
smog-producing nitrogen oxides, 35 percent of the greenhouse gas carbon
dioxide, and 21 percent of toxic mercury pollution.
In Michigan, coal-burning power plants are responsible for more than 40
percent of mercury emissions in the state, according to the Department of
Environmental Quality. Mercury contamination has resulted in fish
consumption advisories for all of the state's 11,000 inland lakes. High
mercury levels have also been found in freshwater fish in the Upper Great
Lakes and Northeastern states and Canada.
One reason the pollution levels are so extreme, the report notes, is that
roughly half the nation's power plants were built before modern pollution
control requirements went into effect in the 1970's. Karen Kendrick-Hands
of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council noted that Detroit
Edison's Monroe plant began operating in 1971. Its last unit came on line
"These dirty old plants continue business as usual," said Dempsey. "It's as
if we were still driving around 25-year-old cars without tailpipe controls
burning leaded gasoline. The adverse effects on our health and environment
are not only significant, they're unnecessary." Unless the plants are
modernized, Dempsey added that electricity deregulation could make the
situation worse if power companies are encouraged to increase operation of
dirty old plants.
As a starting point to correct the problem, Dempsey said, "It's time to
level the playing field. The Monroe plant and other plants should be
required to meet the same air pollution standards that apply to plants
built today. Nationally, that would reduce utility-generated air pollution
by about 75 percent," Dempsey said.
Kendrick-Hands noted that "as we enter the new century, it's time to move
to solar and wind power and other forms of clean, sustainable energy."
Kendrick-Hands added that these benign energy sources would be cheaper "if
we subtract the hidden public health and environmental costs associated
with coal-fired electric power."
Dempsey noted the report was especially timely because the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency recently set tighter air quality health
standards for smog (ozone) and soot (fine particulate matter). The agency
noted that cleaning up dirty power plant pollution is key to meeting both
standards, and will be calling on Eastern states to revise their clean air
plans in coming weeks.
Fine particulate matter, chiefly from power plant sulfur and nitrogen
emissions, has been linked to 60,000 premature deaths in America each year.
Studies have shown that ozone smog sends tens of thousands of people to
hospital emergency rooms. Children with asthma, senior citizens, and adults
with heart and lung problems are especially vulnerable.
In addition, Dempsey added, world leaders will meet in Kyoto, Japan, in
December to consider an international plan to reduce greenhouse gases.
"Power plant emissions are clearly a big part of the problem," Dempsey
The report was produced by the Clean Air Network, a national alliance of
over 900 local, state and national citizen organizations working to promote
The report was prepared from the most recent information reported to the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 487-9541 (fax)
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