PLATTE — A new report has pegged Basin Electric Power Cooperative's Laramie River Station as the No. 2 carcinogenic metal emitter in the nation, but a spokesman for the power company called the report misleading.
The report, compiled by the Environmental Integrity Project
(EIP), looked at statistics from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency's toxics release inventory
. The electric power industry must submit their statistics to the EPA under federal law, according to an EIP release.
According to the report, the coal-fired power plant emits 3,000 pounds of arsenic; 2,507 pounds of chromium; 750 pounds of cobalt; 2,458 pounds of lead; and 2,204 pounds of nickel.
But according to Daryl Hill, supervisor of media and communications relations for Basin Electric, the figures are misleading, especially in using the term "emissions."
"It gives the impression that all this is billowing
through the chimney when in fact it is not," Hill said in a phone interview today. Instead, he said all the reported metals are contained in the "fly ash" from burning the coal. He said 99 percent of the ash is captured and disposed of at an "environmentally sound" location on site that is monitored by the state of Wyoming.
Hill added that the report itself even admits that the risk posed by emissions from a single plant or group of plants cannot be ascertained.
"Correlation does not prove causation," he said. "EIP just picks these up and does their
own reporting and data assembly."
According to Basin Electric, the $1.6 billion, 1,710-megawatt plant burns 375 tons of pulverized coal per hour in each of its three units. The fuel is sub-bituminous coal supplied by Western Fuels Association. The units went into action between 1980 and 1982 and the company claims to have $330 million invested in environmental controls at the facility.
"In terms of environmental soundness, this is a
very good power plant," Hill said.
That doesn't keep EIP from seeing things differently.
"Nationwide, equipment has been installed over the years to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter," said EIP attorney Ilan Levin in a release. "That has helped cut down on the release of mercury, toxic metals and acid gases from power plants over the last ten years. However, that progress is uneven, and the dirtiest plants continue to churn out thousands of pounds of toxins that can be hazardous to human health even in small concentrations."
EIP hopes to use the data as a call to action for the worst offenders.
"Emissions from local power plants deposit mercury and other toxic metals in nearby rivers and streams, where these pollutants concentrate in aquatic organisms at levels that can make fish unsafe to eat," Levin said. "The fact that so few plants are responsible for so much of the mercury pollution makes the solution less complicated; the dirtiest sources need to clean up their act."
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