New Report: North Valmy Power Plant Emits Most Smog-Forming Pollution in Nevada

Environment Nevada

Las Vegas, NV – North Valmy Power Plant in Humboldt County emits 5690.5 tons of smog-forming pollution every year—the most in Nevada—according to the new Environment Nevada report, Dirty Energy’s Assault on Our Health: Ozone Pollution. The report found that power plants in Nevada emitted 12,494.27 tons for smog-forming pollution in 2009.  The report comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to finalize a standard in July to help reduce smog-forming pollution.

“Taking a breath should not leave Nevada’s children gasping for air,” said Leah Yudin. “Smog-forming pollution from power plants puts our children and our environment at risk, and the Environmental Protection Agency must act to reduce this life-threatening pollution.”

Power plants create the ingredients for dangerous smog pollution. They emit tons of nitrogen oxides into our air, which then chemically react with volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight to form ozone pollution, commonly referred to as smog.  Environment Nevada’s report examined the latest research on the public health and environmental impacts of smog, and used data from the Environmental Protection Agency to determine how much smog-forming pollution was being emitted by power plants in Nevada and across the country.  

Our research found that:

  • As we enter the warmer summer months, smog becomes of particular concern because strong sunlight and hot weather result in the build-up of dangerous smog concentrations. According to the American Lung Association, more than half the people in the United States live in areas with unhealthy levels of smog pollution.
  • Children who grow up in areas with high levels of smog pollution may develop diminished lung capacity, putting them at greater risk of lung disease later in life. Additionally, children who are exposed to smog pollution in the womb can experience lower birth weight and growth retardation. Even for healthy adults, repeated exposure to smog pollution over time permanently damages lung tissues, decreases the ability to breathe normally, exacerbates chronic diseases like asthma, and can even kill.
  • Smog harms our environment by negatively affecting species’ habitats in watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay, impairing visibility in national parks, and damaging forests. Smog exposure reduces yields for economically important crops such as soybeans, kidney beans, wheat, and cotton. 
  • In total, power plants emitted under 2 million tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxide pollution in 2009. Power plants in the top eleven most polluting states were responsible for 50 percent of the total nitrogen oxide pollution emitted from power plants that year.

Dr. John Packham with the Nevada Public Health Association in Reno, joined Environment Nevada in releasing today’s report.

“Smog puts Nevadans’ lives on the line,” said Packham for NPHA.  “It’s time to protect our health and reduce dangerous smog-forming pollution from North Valmy Power Plant in Humboldt County and from power plants across the country.”

The report comes as EPA is set to finalize a standard in July to help reduce smog pollution. Environment Nevada is calling on EPA to protect our health and our environment, and to establish an air quality standard for smog pollution of no higher than 60 parts per billion. This stringent air standard will adequately reflect how much smog can be in the air and still have it safe to breathe, and could save up to 12,000 lives per year according to EPA analysts. To achieve this standard, the United States should install and improve pollution control technologies for power plants and accelerate the transition to clean electricity sources—while also reducing smog-forming pollution from vehicles by expanding public transportation systems and putting cleaner cars and trucks on the road.

Yet while EPA is undertaking this rulemaking to protect public health, Congress and industry lobbyists are working to keep EPA from doing its job by threatening to block rules that limit dangerous air pollution. Late in the last Congress, Arkansas Representative Mike Ross circulated a letter asking EPA Administrator Jackson to uphold the 2008 federal smog standard of 75 ppb that puts public health at risk. While there have not been any similar attacks to prevent EPA from finalizing an updated smog standard in this Congress, it is likely that there will be more attacks as the EPA’s deadline to finalize the standard in July approaches.

“All Nevadans have the right to breathe clean air,” said Yudin. “Senator Harry Reid and Representative Shelley Berkley have consistently supported efforts over the years to protect Nevadans’ health, and we’ll be counting on their leadership once again to support EPA moving forward with the strongest possible standards to cut pollution.”