Image credit:Environmental Integrity Project report data, via McClatcy, Pat Carr
Using publicly available data maintained by USEPA, an Environmental Integrity Project report lists Texas as having five of the 10 largest power plant mercury air pollution sources in the nation. The sum result: nearly 12 tons per year of mercury emitted into the Texas skies during 2008.
It's not just Texans who are exposed to Texas power plant-emitted mercury. Some of the nearly 12 tons released each year ends up in other states, in fish of the Gulf of Mexico, and so on.
A comparatively small amount of the mercury released from coal burning in China also ends up in Texas; but Arizona or other states could similarly contribute mercury to Texas. Pointing fingers at lesser sources does not remove the risk.Per the report, States with 50 coal fired power plants emitting the most mercury are:
- Texas (7),
- Alabama (4),
- Pennsylvania (4),
- Indiana (3),
- North Dakota (3),
- Ohio (3),
- West Virginia (3),
- Arkansas (2),
- Arizona (2),
- Georgia (2),
- Illinois (2),
- Kansas (2),
- Louisiana (2),
- Missouri (2),
- and Wisconsin (2).
Mercury emissions are controlled not only by power plant capacity but by the type of coal burned, plant operating efficiency, pollution control devices in use, and maintenance procedures used on those devices. If mercury were more effectively scrubbed from stack gases, however, it would still need to be managed as a toxic waste once collected.
What state wants to accumulate all those tones of elemental mercury and keep it there forever? Texas has a foot in the door already. See Tons Of Unwanted Mercury Will Make 40-Year Visit To Texas for explanation.
Controlling mercury pollution to sufficiently reduce exposure of humans to it will make coal-fired plants non-competitive with renewable energy sources as well as natural gas fired power plants. Possibly even nuclear.
Increasing numbers of people do not accept that human cased emissions of CO2 are responsible for climate change. Who cares? The implementation of adequately protective standards for reducing mercury emissions will take big coal down a couple of notches.
For a discussion of the political and long-range economic implications of pricing coal power in accordance with it's actual impacts, see also "We Were Wrong" - Coal Burning For Electricity Is A Poor Indicator Of Motive For Opposing Cap & Trade and the follow up post: Post Cap & Trade, Manufacturing Jobs Will Move To US States With Greener Power, Not China