Coal Emissions Are Falling Dramatically, EPA Reports

Published September 6, 2010

Coal-fired power plants are emitting substantially fewer smog-forming particles than was the case just two years ago, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The new EPA data show switching from affordable coal to expensive alternative energy sources is unnecessary to reduce air pollution levels.

Emissions data for the first half of 2010 show the 850 coal-fired power plants regulated under EPA’s Acid Rain Program reduced their sulfur dioxide emissions by 36 percent and their nitrogen oxide emissions by 37 percent compared to the first half of 2008. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides combine to form smog.

The decline in smog precursors is taking place independent of the economic slowdown, EPA data show. For each unit of power produced, coal-fired power plants in the first half of 2010 cut their sulfur dioxide emissions by 34 percent and their nitrogen oxide emissions by 35 percent compared to 2008.

The 2010 data show strong progress toward meeting EPA’s goal of reducing sulfur dioxide emissions by 71 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 52 percent by the year 2014.

Even before the newly reported emissions cuts, EPA has documented substantial and consistent improvements in America’s air quality. Prior to the 2008-to-2010 cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, EPA reported emissions of the six most common air pollutants had fallen 54 percent since 1980 and 60 percent since 1970.