Three Kentucky coal-fired power plants are named among the biggest polluters in the nation in a new report. The Environmental Integrity Project analyzed the fifty-one U.S. power plants that emit the highest levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which have been linked to premature deaths from heart and lung disease. The report concludes that at several power plants—including the Green River, Shawnee and Mill Creek plants in Kentucky—the cost of lost human life outweighs the value of electricity the plant produces.
“We live in a free market system and all of us enjoy the benefits,” says Environmental Integrity Project director Eric Schaeffer. “But we set regulatory standards like emission limits, because sometimes activity that makes money for a few people imposes far greater costs on society as a whole.”
The report calculates that the Mill Creek plant is responsible for 100 to 210 premature deaths in Louisville every year, and actually loses anywhere from $225 million to a billion dollars every year once those deaths are taken into account.
The plant is owned by Louisville Gas and Electric. Spokesman Brian Phillips called the report “inaccurate,” because the company has plans to upgrade Mill Creek and reduce its emissions over the next four years.
“As part of our ongoing environmental compliance commitment, we plan to modernize emission control equipment to comply with the new, more stringent federal EPA requirements for SO2 and hazardous air pollutants such as mercury, and those will require compliance by 2016.”
The company also has plans to retire the Green River plant. Schaeffer says plants that have short-term plans to install scrubbers were excluded from the report, but a promise to upgrade in four years is too far off to ignore the plant’s impact on local health.