Global Alert — April 25, 2010

Earth Day at 40: Mercury emissions, coal-fired power plants and Indiana County

Listen to the April 25 Global Alert.

Four decades after the first Earth Day, the nation’s air quality has improved, according to news stories published during this anniversary week. But southwestern Pennsylvania’s air quality has continued to rank among the nation’s worst. And according to a front-page article in the March 18 Indiana Gazette, mercury emission from the region’s coal-fired power plants continue to pose serious health risks.

The Gazette article was based on a study by the Environmental Integrity Project, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit environmental group. The study examined emissions data from 2007-2008, the latest year for which data are available. And the study concluded that two local coal-fired power plants upwind from Indiana rank among the nation’s 50 worst for mercury emissions.

To discuss mercury emissions from the region’s coal-fired power plants and their adverse effects on humans and wildlife, “Global Alert” interviewed two experts on opposing sides of the issue:

  • Heather Sage, vice president of PennFuture, a Pennsylvania-based non-profit environmental group with offices in Pittsburgh and other cities across the commonwealth.
  • James Lafontaine, manager of the Keystone Generating Station near Shelocta, rated the nation’s 10th worst mercury-emitting coal-fired power plant.
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