Clean air at the expense of waterways

Masontown, PA — For years, residents here complained about the yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the nearby coal-fired power plant, which left a film on their cars and pebbles of coal waste in their yards. Five states — including New York and New Jersey — sued the plant’s owner, Allegheny Energy, claiming the air pollution was causing respiratory diseases and acid rain.

So three years ago, when Allegheny Energy decided to install scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions, environmentalists were overjoyed. The technology would spray water and chemicals through the plant’s chimneys, trapping more than 150,000 tons of pollutants each year before they escaped into the sky.

But the cleaner air has come at a cost. Each day since the equipment was switched on in June, the company has dumped tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater containing chemicals from the scrubbing process into the Monongahela River, which provides drinking water to 350,000 people and flows into Pittsburgh, 40 miles to the north…

Even as a growing number of coal-burning power plants around the nation have moved to reduce their air emissions, many of them are creating another problem: water pollution. Power plants are the nation’s biggest producer of toxic waste, surpassing industries like plastic and paint manufacturing and chemical plants, according to a New York Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data…

Yet no federal regulations specifically govern the disposal of power plant discharges into waterways or landfills. Some regulators have used laws like the Clean Water Act to combat such pollution. But those laws can prove inadequate, say regulators, because they do not mandate limits on the most dangerous chemicals in power plant waste, like arsenic and lead…

Even when power plant emissions are regulated by the Clean Water Act, plants have often violated that law without paying fines or facing other penalties. Ninety percent of 313 coal-fired power plants that have violated the Clean Water Act since 2004 were not fined or otherwise sanctioned by federal or state regulators, according to a Times analysis of Environmental Protection Agency records.

RTFA. It goes on and on – pretty much as you would expect.

It remains cheaper to buy state officials than a congress-critter; so, the ever-popular federalist defense utilizes states rights to fend off the rare attempts to use federal regulations to stop pollution creep.


  1. Mr. Fusion

    the ever-popular federalist defense utilizes states rights to fend off the rare attempts to use federal regulations to stop pollution creep.

    This isn’t a State matter. The Monongahela River becomes the Ohio which flows into the Mississippi. That makes it a whole lot of States with an interest.

  2. Cinaedh

    Last night I watched a coal industry ‘spin’ advertisement on TV. They said coal was clean and plentiful.

    In view of this story, let’s set aside the clean claim as perhaps somewhat questionable.

    It also struck me, if something is plentiful, isn’t it usually really cheap? If coal is really cheap, how do so many monster corporations get so rich from mining and selling it, each and every quarter?

    Just curious.

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