A National Analysis of Toxic Released from Electric Power Plants
journal contributionposted on 01.06.1999 by Edward Rubin, Michael B. Berkenpas
Any type of content formally published in an academic journal, usually following a peer-review process.
As of 1998, electric utility companies burning coal or oil are required to report their annual releases of toxic chemicals to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), a national compilation of multimedia (air, water, land) releases of over 600 chemicals and chemical categories designated as toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). TRI reports for 1998 must be filed with EPA by July 1, 1999, but results of the 1998 inventory not expected until mid-2000. To estimate the impact of utility emissions on TRI results, this paper uses historical data to estimate the magnitude of toxic releases for the electric utility sector relative to other industry groups in 1995. The analysis uses a public database of coal consumption for each coal-burning power plant in the United States to estimate reportable releases based on regional trace element coal characteristics and site-specific plant data. When aggregated to the national level, releases from the electric utility industry were found to exceed those of any of the manufacturing industries reporting to the TRI in 1995. These results suggest that the addition of power plants to the TRI could significantly change the rankings of chemicals, industries and facilities listed by EPA in its annual TRI report. Since the TRI gives only mass emissions without regard to the relative toxicity or risk from chemical releases there will be an increased need for risk communication programs to explain and interpret the new TRI results to the public.