For the second year in a row, Georgia ranks among the top 20 states with the most toxic air pollution. But the same study found our air is getting cleaner.
The Natural Resources Defense Council ranks Georgia ninth in the nation in toxic air pollution. Most of it comes from coal-fired power plants.
John Walke with the NRDC says even though Georgia also ranked ninth last year, the air is improving, “Georgia did experience a 26 percent drop in toxic pollution from the power sector.” he says.
Walke credits the state’s mercury regulations.
But he says other states did even better. Florida saw a 50 percent drop in toxic air pollution.
Marilyn Brown, public policy professor at Georgia Tech, says power companies are also relying more on natural gas, which is cleaner than coal.
“And then you have the price of natural gas being so competitive that it’s better to what they call ‘base-load’ natural gas than coal.” she says.
56 percent of Georgia’s power came from coal in 2010, the most recent figures available.
Brown says Georgia will likely see a reduction in coal- fired power plants after 2015 when Environmental Protection Agency regulations go into effect.
“That would require that these old coal plants be upgraded with modern environmental cleanup technologies which would cost a lot or be idled. And in many cases it’s just more affordable to idle them or retire them.” she says.