New Report: The Toll from Coal

George Cavros | September 9, 2010 | Press Releases

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SOUTHERN ALLIANCE FOR CLEAN ENERGY CALLS FOR GEORGIA EMCs TO DROP THREE PROPOSED NEW COAL PLANTSATLANTA, GA September 9, 2010 – In a landmark report released today, the Clean Air Task Force has determined that reducing emissions of fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants, one of the top contributors of air pollution in the U.S., can have a direct and significant positive effect on public health, including here in Georgia.

“The Toll from Coal” ( ) the third such study from CATF, follows on their 2000 and 2004 reports and documents the progress in using modern pollution control technologies to decrease emissions of SO2 and NOx, two of the most dangerous byproducts of coal combustion, and charts the progress to date in reducing the death and disease caused by coal-fired power plants.

The online version of the study also contains an interactive map ( ) that shows how the health risks and costs are distributed geographically, indicating that those areas with the highest concentration of coal plants bear a disproportionate share of negative public health impacts. Georgia for example, ranks 17th in mortality risk, while California, which has very few coal-fired power plants, ranks almost last (47th) for power plant mortality risk.

In Georgia, researchers found that health impacts from coal-fired power plant emissions remain severe, with pollution from power plants estimated to cause 536 deaths, 396 hospital admissions, and 728 heart attacks per year.

“There’s no excuse in 2010 that power plant pollution cuts short the lives of 536 people per year in Georgia when technology is available that could virtually eliminate this pollution,” said Amelia Shenstone, Georgia Coal Organizer for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “We call upon EPA and Congress to finish the job of cleaning up power plant pollution, and upon Power4Georgians to invest in clean energy alternatives to the three new coal-fired plants proposed for Georgia, which would not threaten Georgians’ health like coal burning will.”

Clean Air Task Force study details public health costs and risks…

On a national level, other key findings of the report were:

  • Coal-fired power plants remain among the top contributors to fine particle pollution, particularly SO2 and NOx, in the country. This pollution is expected to cause over 13,000 premature deaths in 2010, as well as almost 10,000 hospitalizations and more than 20,000 heart attacks per year.
  • Since 2004, SO2 and NOx emissions have decreased by almost 50%, thanks to the installation of about 130 power plant scrubbers, mandated through a combination of enforcement of the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act, and state power plant clean-up laws.
  • These pollution reductions, which have occurred without noticeably affecting electricity prices or consumer bills, natural gas prices, or the reliability of the power system, will prevent almost 11,000 premature deaths in 2010.
  • With existing technology, continued enforcement of existing laws and regulations, and stronger EPA regulation and new federal legislation, fine particle pollutant levels and mortality rates in this country can be driven further down at an accelerating rate. Hundreds of coal-fired power plants do not yet have scrubber technology, so there is still an enormous opportunity to significantly enhance public health.

“As an expectant mom, I have a lot of concerns for the health of my baby. This report clearly illustrates that I have reason for concern,” said Jayme Hill, Flint Riverkeeper Director of Development and Miller County Resident. “I want my daughter to grow up in a Georgia where clean air is abundant, not where coal combustion pollution may damage her lungs, her development, and impact her well-being.”

“One thing we have learned over the last decade, is that intelligent regulation works, and without significant cost increases to the industry or the consumer,” said Shenstone. “We have made a lot of progress in reducing the massive public health costs of emissions from coal-fired power plants, but obviously much more needs to be done to ensure that modern pollution controls are installed at all older coal-fired power plants, that new plants don’t add to the problem, and that we finally put and end to the death toll from coal.” # # # Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization working to promote responsible energy choices that solve global warming problems and ensure clean, safe, healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Clean Air Task Force is a nonprofit organization founded in 1996 dedicated to reducing atmospheric pollution through research, advocacy and private sector collaboration. For more information, please visit us at