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Coal Report: New York Metro Region Tops Nation in Negative Health Impacts

September 13, 2010

NEW YORK - When you think of pollution from coal plants, the Midwest may come to mind, but New York is downwind from those plants and has coal-fired power plants of its own. Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), says a new Clean Air Task Force report ranks the state third from the top for negative health impacts from fine-particle pollution from coal plants.

"945 New Yorkers will die prematurely as a result of these emissions from coal-fired power plants; that's too many."

When you include parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the New York region ranks number one in the report for the number of coal-pollution-related deaths, heart attacks and hospital admissions . Haight gives New York's coal-fired plants credit for reducing emissions, but she says hundreds of plants nationwide lack scrubbers to clean their emissions, and that means thousands more deaths in 2010 that could have been prevented.

The industry has expressed concerns over cost and lobbied against requirements to install modern pollution controls.

Since 2004 state and federal actions have resulted in installation of scrubbers at 130 coal fired-power plants, and Task Force report co-author Conrad Schneider says that has knocked down hazardous pollution by 50 percent.

"These cuts in emissions, with the associated health benefits, have occurred without affecting electricity prices or consumer bills nor, importantly, the reliability of the power system. In other words, the lights didn't go off as a result of these units being taken out of service, scrubbers installed, and going back into service."

The "Toll from Coal" report puts the price tag for national health costs from coal pollution at $100 billion a year and predicts more than 13,000 deaths this year resulting from such pollution. It stresses the need for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adopt a new federal transport rule which would require states to reduce power plant emissions that contribute to pollution in other states.

The report is available at: www.catf.us

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY