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PA Tops in Toll From Coal Report

September 17, 2010

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A new report says Pennsylvania pays a high price for coal-fired power plants. The report, from the Clean Air Task Force, puts Pennsylvania at the top of the list when it comes to coal's impact on health.

Report author and advocacy director for the group, Conrad Schneider, says the big problem is fine-particulate pollution - some refer to it as soot. He says Pennsylvania has its own history of coal production - plus, the state is a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Many of the power plants in Pennsylvania have actually done a pretty good job of installing controls. But the other problem in Pennsylvania is that a lot of pollution blows over the border from coal-fired power plants in the Ohio River Valley, just upwind of Pennsylvania."

Industry officials say $50 billion has been invested between 1970 and 2005 in clean coal technology, reducing toxic emissions from the nation's hundreds of coal plants by more than 75 percent during that time.

Schneider notes there has been substantial improvement in particulate pollution in recent years.

"Power plants have installed over 130 sulfur scrubbers during that time; pollution controls have cut that pollution in half. What we know is, if more plants had these controls, we could cut that death toll even more."

Schneider points out that a major reduction could come when the federal Environmental Protection Agency follows through on its proposed Transport Rule, which would require reductions in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions that cross state lines.

"We would expect not only to see the numbers of deaths and health impacts go down in Pennsylvania, but potentially, Pennsylvania would drop in the ranking from being the number one state to a lower ranking."

The study found that this year, pollution from coal burning power plants will likely contribute to more than 1,000 people landing in the hospital in Pennsylvania, Schneider says, and to just over 1,000 deaths.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA