NAFTA Commission Critical of Coal-Fired Power Plants

Overall pollution in North America declined by 10 percent from 1998 to 2001 (the last year for which figures are available), but coal-fired power plants continue to lag behind other sources in the pace of improvement and in reducing the total amount of pollution, according to a new report. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a panel established by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico under NAFTA, listed 46 coal-fired power plants among the top 50 polluters in North America. Release of chemical pollutants by industrial sources overall fell by 18 percent, while production from power plants fell by only 9 percent. “The [power plant] sector generated 45 percent of the 755,502 tons of toxic air releases in 2001, with hydrochloric and sulfuric acids being the chemicals most commonly released from the burning of coal and oil,” said a statement released with the report, which also tagged power plants with “64 percent of all mercury air emissions, mainly from coal combustion.”