NRDC ‘Toxic Twenty’ List Disregards Air Pollution Improvements

Published October 4, 2012

The Natural Resources Defense Council is targeting key electoral swing states in its newly released “Toxic Twenty” list of states it says are most in need of expensive emissions restrictions.

Electoral Swing States Targeted

According to NRDC, Kentucky is most in need of costly new emissions restrictions, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.

The next 10 states on NRDC’s list are Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri, Illinois, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Delaware. The list includes almost every swing state in this year’s presidential election, as well as many key U.S. Senate contests.

Attacking Affordable CoalNRDC chose the states primarily on the basis of their use of coal-powered electricity, the most affordable large-scale source of electricity. 

Although NRDC releases its “Toxic Twenty” list in an effort to build support for more restrictive emissions standards, the advocacy group admitted toxins emitted from all power plants across the nation fell by 19 percent between 2009 and 2010. NRDC attributed most of the emissions reductions to EPA regulations and recent electricity market share gains by natural gas at the expense of coal.

New Restrictions Unnecessary

Abigail F. MacIver, director of policy and external affairs for the Florida office of Americans for Prosperity, says the ongoing emissions reductions are attributable more to market forces than EPA regulations.

“The NRDC ignores a number of significant factors including that the level of toxins being omitted by power plants decreased … not because of EPA regulations but because of market forces,” MacIver said. “NRDC also fails to mention that Florida was the third highest consumer of energy in 2010 but 30th in per capita power usage, showing that despite being one of the most populous states, we are using less energy per person than 29 other states.”

MacIver said the NRDC is simply trying to push federal regulation of coal to the point where the industry is driven out of business. Such a tactic is economically destructive and environmentally unnecessary, MacIver said, given already substantial long-term declines in emissions. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports emissions of the six principle pollutants have declined by 67 percent since 1980, even while the U.S. population grew by 36 percent.

“What’s interesting is every year, our air and water gets cleaner,” said Mike Thompson, president of Americans for Prosperity for Florida. 

No Solutions Offered

Thompson said environmentalists are quick to criticize coal-fired energy production but slow to offer viable solutions.

“We never have a viable alternative to replace electricity,” he said. “I mean, what are we going to do? Are we going to have little windmills on beanies? What is their plan to have a reasonable working relationship between green energy and economic development?”

Cheryl Chumley is a digital editor with The Washington Times’ newest endeavor,