WV'S AIR AMONG MOST TOXIC IN USA - 'Inhaling That Fresh Mountain Air'

(08/20/2012)

Most West Virginians want to believe we breathe fresh mountain air.

The Mountain State is rapidly approaching being the leader in air toxins from coal, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The latest analysis just released by the Council looked at emissions from power plants in 2010, saying the state is the fifth most polluted state in the nation.

"Toxic pollution is already being reduced as a result of EPA's health-protecting standards," John Walke, NRDC's clean air director, said in a news release.

"Thanks to the agency's latest safeguards, millions of children and their families in the states hardest hit by toxic air pollution from power plants will be able to breathe easier."

An overall decrease of 19 percent of all air toxics from power plants was observed by the organization. Mercury dropped 4 percent, a fact the NRDC said comes from companies increasingly switching from coal to gas power and installation of new emission protections at many plants.

"For too long, Americans have had no choice but to breathe toxic air pollution," said Franz Matzner, NRDC associate director of government affairs.

"Thanks to the EPA, the air is getting cleaner. But we need lawmakers who will help clean up the air we all breathe — not lawmakers who do the bidding of big polluters trying to repeal safeguards that protect children's health.

According to public opinon polls, most West Virgnian's consider the environmental and health impact of polluted air and water, but then agree with the "War on Coal" by the EPA, considering the efforts will affect remaining coal jobs based on depleting coal supplies.

More than 80 percent of toxic industrial air pollution in West Virginia stemmed from electrical power generation. Another 10 percent came from the chemical sector.

Among the biggest air toxic emitters were power plants owned by Allegheny Energy, AEP and Dominion.

"West Virginia's electric sector ranked fifth in industrial toxic air pollution in 2010, emitting more then 18.1 million pounds of harmful chemicals, which accounted for 81 percent of state pollution and 6 percent of toxic pollution from all U.S. power plants," said the report.

The state ranked seventh in industrial mercury air pollution with nearly 2,500 pounds of mercury emitted in 2010.

The amount of mercury in lakes, streams and rivers led to warnings to eat a limited number of toxic fish.

But West Virginia fared better than some of its neighboring states.

Kentucky was ranked as having the worst air pollution, and Ohio was ranked No. 2.


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