Three of North Carolina’s coal plants rank among the fifty dirtiest plants in the country

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Environment North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, NC – A new study shows that North Carolina’s coal-fired power plants are some of the biggest polluters in the country, with two ranking in the top twenty and three ranking among the fifty dirtiest plants in the nation. Clean energy businesses, medical professionals, and academics pointed to the data to support proposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants.

 “Combined, these three power plants emit 8 million cars’ worth of pollution each year. Cleaning them up would be the equivalent of taking almost every car in North Carolina off the road,” said Maya Gold, Clean Energy Associate for Environment North Carolina. “It’s time to stop ignoring the nation’s largest global-warming polluter, and start investing in clean energy.”

The Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center report, America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, comes as the link between global warming to extreme weather events such as severe flooding and unseasonal hurricanes becomes more definitive. According to Dr. Brian Magi, Assistant Professor at University of North Carolina Charlotte, “Currently the Earth is warming and our climate is changing, largely because carbon dioxide gas is accumulating in the atmosphere. The scientific evidence for these points is clean and definitive: we cannot continue to rely on the burning of fossil fuels for energy without compromising the stability of our climate system.”

Terry Taylor, a retired nurse, talked about the immediate and personal effects of climate change. She mentioned that ground-level ozone, a side effect of climate change, causes many respiratory problems, including asthma.

“I have seen many faces of frightened and anxious patients, but the serious asthmatic being rushed into the ER with a severe attack, totally conscious, blue lips, wide eyed, flaring nostrils, fingernails digging into my arm…this is when I saw terror,” said Taylor.

The report also comes in the middle of the Environmental Protection Agency’s comment period on its Clean Power Plan. The plan would set the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants. If enacted, the limits would be the largest step the United States or any country has ever taken to cut global warming emissions.

 Key findings include:

  • North Carolina is home to two of the 20 dirtiest power plants, and three in the top 50. The Roxboro Steam Plant ranks 12th nationally, followed by the Belews Creek plant at 18th, and the Marshall Plant, near Lake Norman, which ranks as the 47th dirtiest power plant.
  • Combined, these three power plants emit 8 million cars’ worth of pollution each year. With 8.2 million cars registered in the state of North Carolina, these power plants are responsible for nearly as much pollution as every personal vehicle on the road combined.
  • North Carolina ranks 12th nationally for carbon pollution from power plants.
  • If the United States’ fleet of coal- and gas-burning power plants were a country, it would be the 3rd-largest carbon polluter, behind only the U.S. and China.

The Clean Power Plan would also spur investments in clean energy like wind and solar power. North Carolina is already a national a leader in solar energy: in 2013, it ranked second in the nation for solar installations.

Jeff Redwine, owner of the solar company RED, noted that “Never before has clean energy been so readily available. Never before has it made both financial and environmental sense. Efficiency will always come first, but having the ability to invest in your home or business and make 14% is great in any market.”

Americans have submitted more than 6 million comments to EPA supporting limits on carbon pollution from power plants. Across North Carolina, local elected officials, small business owners and members of Congress such as Representatives David Price and G.K Butterfield have all voiced support for limits on carbon pollution.

 “The Clean Power Plan has given North Carolina a huge opportunity to cut dangerous carbon pollution and take charge of our energy future,” said Gold. “It’s the 21st century. We should power our lives in a way that doesn’t pollute the environment and never runs out.”