The Sierra Club said Feb. 17 that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overlooked “major potential hotbeds” of SO2 pollution in Illinois when it failed to designate several areas “non-attainment” despite detailed modeling data that show added protection is needed to protect communities in these areas.
Designating a non-attainment status to certain areas means the state must put a plan in place to clean up sources of pollution. The decision was in a Feb. 16 EPA letter to Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The club said most of the main sources of SO2 pollution are coal-fired power plants. Exposure to sulfur dioxide pollution from coal plants and other sources for as little as five minutes can cause lung function impacts, asthma attacks, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, it said.
Following EPA’s modeling protocols, the Sierra Club submitted SO2 pollution modeling demonstrating that non-attainment status for parts of Massac, Jasper and Williamson counties in southern Illinois was appropriate due to coal plant emissions in those counties. The club said the coal-fired power plants responsible for the high levels of SO2 pollution are Dynegy’s (NYSE: DYN) Joppa and Newton coal-fired power plants, along with Southern Illinois Power Cooperative’s Marion coal plant.
U.S. EPA instead sided with the Illinois EPA’s interpretation of air quality impacts, which improperly dismissed the significant potential for high SO2 pollution that these plants, and ignored the ability of polluting plants in neighboring communities to exacerbate already-high SO2 pollution, said the club.
Holly Bender, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said: “U.S. EPA is supposed to step in when state agencies aren’t taking the appropriate steps to protect public health. We are disappointed to see that the U.S. EPA accepted IEPA’s flawed analysis and refused to take action on sulfur dioxide pollution in Illinois despite clear evidence and data showing that Illinoisans’ health is at risk.”