As Air Toxics Rise, Some Coal-Fired Plants Don’t Mind Stricter Pollution Control

There is another reason to welcome the Environmental Protection Agency’s new air toxics rules imposing limits on the pollutants for coal-fired power plants. Air toxic chemicals rose 16 percent in 2010, according to a report released yesterday by the Environmental Protection Agency, with metal mining was largely responsible for the increase. Both dioxins, which can cause cancer, and landfill disposal saw a considerable uptick — 10 percent and 18 percent respectively:

Some environmentalists said the new data show why the EPA should swiftly move to release a long-anticipated environmental assessment of dioxin, the first installment of which the agency plans to issue this month. EPA officials say they will issue a report addressing dioxin’s non-cancerous effects first and then later release a cancer-related report.

Some industry groups, including the American Chemistry Council, have urged the EPA to hold off issuing the report in what the trade association’s president and chief executive, Cal Dooley, has called “a piecemeal fashion.” Chemical manufacturers accounted for nearly 64 percent of total disposal of dioxins in 2010, though they reported a 7 percent decrease from 2009 to 2010.

There has been much industry opposition to EPA initiatives reducing pollution and toxics, including the cross-state air pollution standard. The EPA rule meant to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, was stayed by a court order, delaying their implementation. Groups including the National Mining Association and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers fought implementation, calling the rule overreach.


However, the New York Times reports how one coal-fired power plant has been able to install cleaner technology to meet state and EPA standards. Constellation Energy’s Vice President for Environmental Compliance Paul Allen explained they had ample time to update technology to meet new rules: ““When we started making plans for this project, we did it with the expectation that there would be a federal regime, and we still have that expectation.”

When coal and utilities last fought cleaning power plants, citing concerns about reliability, Allen similarly determined “It’s entirely possible to comply with these rules and remain a profitable company.”