Monday, June 7, 2010

A win for Charlotte's air quality

Posted By on Mon, Jun 7, 2010 at 12:34 PM

The U.S. Environmental Protection agency is cracking down on sulfur dioxide pollution, much of which comes from coal fired power plants.

This is a huge win for Charlotte's air quality, which is piss poor. (Today is a code yellow day, by the way.)

There are at least four working coal plants in and around Charlotte: Riverbend (12 miles from Uptown), Allen (16 miles from Uptown), Marshall (37 miles from Uptown) and Cliffside (52 miles from Uptown). All four are owned by Charlotte-based Duke Energy.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday set a new health standard that coal-fired power plants and other industries will have to meet on sulfur dioxide, a pollutant that triggers asthma attacks and causes other respiratory problems.

The EPA set the new standard within a range that an independent panel of scientists suggested. This marks the first time the standard has been changed since the original one was issued in 1971.

The new rule sets the amount at 75 parts per billion over a one-hour period, a level that's aimed at protecting people who go outdoors from short-term exposures. The EPA said that even brief exposure could create health problems, especially for children, people with asthma and older people.

The agency also changed its rules to require more monitors in areas that have the highest amounts of sulfur dioxide pollution.

Sulfur dioxide comes mainly from coal-fired power plants. The EPA is in the process of tightening controls on other air pollutants from coal and other fossil fuels. It's expected to issue a final rule tightening the regulation of ozone, or smog, in September.

The EPA estimated that cleaner air as a result of the new standard would mean 2,300 to 5,900 fewer premature deaths and 54,000 fewer asthma attacks per year. It said the estimated cost to upgrade pollution controls was about $1.5 billion.

Clean Air Watch, an advocacy group, gave the EPA "a B plus or A minus" on the new standard. It was slightly less strict than the group and the American Lung Association had recommended.


Further reading: Coal hard facts: A Charlotte company teams up to clean up Duke Energy’s plantsThe Mecklenburg Times

Keep up with Charlotte's air quality alerts on Twitter.

In addition to being horrible for our health, sulfur dioxide contributes to global warming.

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