Toxic pollution generated by eight utilities that have
been cited for Clean Air Act violations will contribute
to nearly 6,000 premature deaths and tens of thousands
of respiratory illnesses annually, according to a study
released yesterday by environmental advocates.
Using a model that assumes full implementation of federal
acid rain and smog reduction programs, the study forecasts
that every year, beginning in 2007, some 5,900 adults
will die prematurely because of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen
oxide emissions from 84 plants operated by the eight companies.
The study also projects that power plant emissions from
these eight utilities, largely concentrated in the Midwest
and South, will cause 4,300 annual cases of chronic bronchitis,
160,000 cases of upper respiratory symptoms and 140,000
asthma attacks. Americans will miss an estimated 1.2 million
days of work a year because of related health problems,
Eric V. Schaeffer, a former Environmental Protection
Agency chief of civil enforcement, released the study
on behalf of the Rockefeller Family Fund of New York,
a philanthropic group that financed the report. Schaeffer,
who resigned in February in part to protest Bush administration
clean air policies, said: "It is getting to be beyond
dispute that there's a link between sulfur dioxide and
particulate matter from power plants and premature mortality,
and we need to start assigning responsibility."
A spokeswoman for the Edison Electric Institute, the
main industry advocacy group, said that while utilities
"take very seriously" the assertions that emissions cause
premature deaths, they question the methodology of this
and other studies that blame utilities for health problems
caused by a variety of factors, such as car and truck
emissions. "This is not really an exact science," said
Scott Segal, spokesman for the Electric Reliability
Coordinating Council, a coalition of utilities, called
the study the "45 millionth restatement of this data by
the environmental community. . . . The methodology employed
is not sophisticated enough to establish causal relationships
between individual companies and health effects."
The latest analysis was prepared by consultant Abt Associates,
which is also a consultant to the EPA. Its data has been
cited by other environmental and community health organizations,
including the Clean Air Task Force, in arguing there is
a strong link between fine particle emissions from aging
coal-fired power plants and mounting public health problems
including lung cancer, asthma and premature deaths.
The utilities covered in the study are Southern Co.,
AEP, Cinergy, the Tennessee Valley Authority, Southern
Indiana Gas and Electric Co. (SIGECO), First Energy, Dynergy
Inc. and Duke Power. They are among the defendants in
cases brought by the Clinton administration against utilities
that significantly modified their aging power plants --
and increased their air pollution -- without installing
state-of-the-art anti-pollution equipment, as required
under the Clean Air Act.
Among the states that will suffer the largest number
of premature deaths, according to the analysis, are Alabama,
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Michigan,
Ohio and New York. The elevated mortality rate would account
for 230 lives a year in Virginia, 170 in Maryland and
20 in the District, the report said.
The study was issued as the Bush administration completes
work on Clean Air Act rule changes aimed at discouraging
new government lawsuits against utility operators while
it promotes "Clear Skies" legislation to force long-term,
industry-wide reductions in toxic pollutants.
Bush officials say their approach would be far more
effective in reducing dangerous power plant emissions
than the current piecemeal approach of suing older power
plants that violate the Clean Air Act, seeking to force
them to install expensive anti-pollution equipment.
"We do care a great deal about the public health," said
Joe Martyak, an EPA spokesman. "Clear Skies is a better
But the president's legislative proposal has encountered
stiff resistance on Capitol Hill.