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Environmental Integrity Project Report Examines Coal Plants' Costs

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Do the social costs of some coal-fired power plants exceed their values? A new report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) suggests that for a number of U.S. coal plants, their social costs as a result of premature deaths exceed the value of the electricity they generate.

In the report, the group examined the coal-fired plants "with the largest emissions of sulfur dioxide in 2010 and 2011 that do not yet have plans to install or upgrade scrubbers" and estimated the number of premature deaths from each plant and the cost of these deaths. The calculations were performed, according to the EIP, "using a peer-reviewed approach consistent with EPA methods."

The report emphasizes the value of seeking cleaner and more efficient methods of electricity generation.

Coal helped to power America’s industrial revolution, and electricity is obviously vital to our economy today. But we have better choices now than we had more than forty years ago, when most of these plants were built. Investments in advanced emission controls can greatly reduce the dangerous buildup of fine particles, and investments in renewable energy and efficiency improvements can secure our supply of electricity – and generate the jobs we need – without the death and disease that are the price we pay for dirty coal plants.

An EPA hearing on coal in Frankfort, Kentucky this week prompted demonstrations from hundreds of coal miners and environmentalists. Miners protested the EPA's hold on 36 permits for coal mines in the state, while environmentalists supported the EPA's decision to delay the permits because of concerns relating to water pollution.

Seattle's city council unanimously adopted a resolution last month opposing plans to develop coal-export terminals in Washington state. According to the Associated Press, "If all the facilities are built, at least 100 million tons of coal a year could be carried in trains through the Northwest before being shipped to Asia.

Below, find the 10 U.S. coal power plants with the highest social costs that exceed their electricity value. Read the full report here.

Coal Pollution Costs vs. Electricity Value
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