Report: Ky., Tenn. Among Worst Pollution States

The Natural Resources Defense Council investigated air pollution from coal-fired power plants to name its "Toxic Twenty" states.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kentucky is the worst state in the nation when it comes to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to a report released Thursday by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The analysis examined emissions from power plants in 2010, the most recent data available.

As for the other states bordering Kentucky, Ohio ranked second, Indiana fourth, West Virginia fifth, Tennessee 11th, Virginia 12th, Missouri 15th and Illinois 16th. Delaware was No. 20 in the group's "Toxic Twenty" states.

As for Kentucky, Council officials said its power plants are "poorly controlled" and that it has "failed to ... adopt any kind of state law or regulation that requires substantial reduction in mercury or toxic pollution from the power sector."

John Lyons, director of the Kentucky Division for Air Quality, disagreed with the findings.

"That is absolutely untrue," he said Thursday.

"Our fleet of plants in this state is as well-controlled as any other state for that matter," he said. "We just have more plants, therefore we have more emissions."

The report said Tennessee was one of the few states to increase its output of toxic air pollutants from 2009 to 2010, spewing out 9.6 million pounds of pollutants from its power plants. Power plants in Tennessee emitted 8.8 million pounds of pollutants in 2009.

However, John Walke, the Council's clean air director, said he expects pollution from power plants in Tennessee to decrease in next year's report because of actions under way by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 2010, the TVA board of directors adopted a new vision for the agency to be one of the nation's leading providers of low-cost and cleaner energy by 2020, according to TVA spokesman Scott Brooks.

To achieve its goal, he said TVA is focusing on cleaner air, increased nuclear generation and greater energy efficiency.

"TVA continues to take steps to improve the air quality in Tennessee Valley and reduce emissions," Brooks said. "We are working toward a cleaner generation in a planned and deliberate manner, which will further improve air quality, maintain electric reliability and help TVA control consumer electric costs."

Nationally, the report found a 19 percent drop in all air toxics emitted from power plants in 2010, compared with 2009 levels.

The report said one reason for the drop, which included a 4 percent decrease in mercury emissions, is due to an increased use of natural gas by power companies.

"Toxic pollution is already being reduced as a result of EPA's health-protecting standards," Walke said. "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."

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