Emissions of cancer- and central nervous system defect-causing toxic air pollution put Texas power plants atop the pile of serial polluters, a report based on EPA data finds. Nationwide, pollution controls such as smokestack scrubbers have reduced the rates at which air toxins are pumped into the air we breath. But a group of inveterate emitters -- in Texas, chiefly downtown Dallas-based Luminant's North Texas plants -- continues to release a peerless volume of poison.
According to the Environmental Integrity Project report, compiled with data mined from the EPA's Toxic Release Inventory of self-reported industry numbers, Texas power plants emit more mercury than those of any other state in the country.
In the short term, acute exposure to mercury causes central nervous system disruptions that can result in tremors, mood swings and slowed motor function. In the long term, it can cause blindness, deafness and developmental disorders in infants whose mothers were exposed. Luminant's Monticello plant in Mt. Pleasant, its Big Brown plant in Fairfield and its Martin Lake plant near Tyler are three of the top seven emitters of mercury in the country. Big Brown is No. 1.
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Texas comes in at No 3. for releases of chromium, which can cause bronchitis, pneumonia, decreased pulmonary dysfunction and lung cancer. Luminant's Monticello station is the fourth-biggest emitter.
True, selenium is the stuff they put in multivitamins. We need it, but not at the rates Luminant dumps it into the air. Chronic exposure can lead to hair and fingernail loss, excessive tooth decay and lack of mental alertness. Luminant's Big Brown, Monticello and Martin Lake plants are three of the four top emitters in the country.
The EPA is currently under court order to finalize rules on the release of air toxics like mercury by December 16. Companies like Luminant will get three years to comply, provided they don't delay, posture, sue the EPA and threaten plant closures and layoffs instead of installing pollution controls.
This comes at a time when ERCOT predicts grid reliability problems by 2012 because of a separate law placing limits on certain other pollutants. The Department of Energy reached a different conclusion in a report released last week that predicted Texas power generators should be able to meet peak demand by adding a gigawatt of natural-gas powered generation.