Fri November 16, 2012
Report Quantifies Uneven Effects of Coal Plants on Minority, Low-Income Communities
The concentration of industry and pollution in low-income areas is something that's been well-documented, both nationwide and in Louisville, and the Environmental Protection Agency has made environmental justice a priority.
“Coal pollution is literally killing low-income communities and communities of color,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “There is no disputing the urgency of this issue. Environmental justice is a civil and human rights issue when our children are getting sick, our grandparents are dying early, and mothers and fathers are missing work.”
The report analyzed data from 378 coal-fired power plants in the United States. Here's the researcher's description of the factors that went into each power plant's score:
The score assigned to each plant, and each company, is based on five factors: SO2 and NOx emissions; the total population living within three miles of the plant(s); and the median income and percentage of people of color among the total population living within three miles of the plant.
The report ranks the top twelve worst offenders, which doesn't necessarily mean they're the most polluting, but that the plant emits the most pollution that affects the most people. Duke Energy's Gallagher Plant in New Albany ranked #8 in the nation. The plant shut down two of its four units earlier this year, which air pollution regulators have said could make a real difference in Louisville's air quality because much of the plant's pollution crosses the river. But the report estimates 60,333 people live within three miles of the plant. Of those residents, the average income is $12,868 and 61 percent are people of color.
Louisville's power plants were also included in the scoring. Cane Run (which is scheduled to be shut down by 2016) got a D minus. Mill Creek got a D, partly because it emitted high amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide in the period from 2007 to 2010 (though the plant is scheduled to install scrubbers and reduce those emissions) and Trimble County got an incomplete. The report didn't give any grade higher than a C+, choosing instead to score plants as "incomplete" because the researchers "believe that any plant that is causing harm by polluting any person should not receive a positive grade."