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Pennsylvania's power plants fare poorly in national study

Friday, April 14, 2000

By Don Hopey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Pennsylvania power plants ranked worst in the nation for releases of airborne mercury and second to Ohio for emissions of sulfur dioxide, according to a study of 594 power plants released yesterday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Clear the Air, The National Campaign Against Dirty Power.

According to the study, based on preliminary 1999 data submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by the utilities, the state's coal-fired power plants also ranked sixth for carbon dioxide emissions and ninth for nitrogen oxide emissions.

Two Pennsylvania power plants had especially high emissions of mercury and sulfur dioxide: Sithe Energy's Keystone power plant in Armstrong County (No. 1 for mercury, No. 4 for sulfur dioxide) and Edison Mission Energy Inc.'s Homer City plant in Indiana County (No. 2 for mercury and No. 3 for sulfur dioxide).

Officials at Edison Mission's Midwest Generation subsidiary noted that the company is currently investing $250 million to reduce nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions at the plant, which is one of the biggest in Pennsylvania. The work to install catalytic reduction equipment and a new scrubber should be done by autumn 2001, a spokeswoman said.

Doug McFarlan, a Midwest Generation spokesman, said the entire utility industry is working to figure out how to reduce mercury emissions because there is no good technology for that right now.

Pennsylvania ranks third in the United States for the number of coal-fired power plants. Nationwide, coal-fired power plants -- especially older plants operating with out-of-date or no pollution controls -- are the largest industrial source of soot and smog-forming air pollution, toxic mercury, and carbon dioxide, thought to be a leading cause of global warming.

David Weiner, PennPIRG Pittsburgh campaign coordinator, said pollution controls have reduced sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from Pennsylvania power plants, but not enough.

"We're looking for better pollution controls, retirement of older plants and fuel switching away from coal," he said. "Eventually we're looking for more renewable, reusable energy sources."

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