Virginia And West Virginia In NRDC’s Top 20 Most Toxic States

Marlinton, WV – The National Resources Defense Council [NRDC], in conjunction with Physicians for Social Responsibility [PSR] released an analysis of the top 20 states with the most air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants. The analysis uses data from the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory. West Virginia and Virginia are ranked number 8 and number 14 respectively.

The toxic 20 range from the Midwest to the eastern seaboard, from New Hampshire to Florida. The EPA is hoping to put new standards regarding toxic emissions from these plants in place later this year. Here’s Dan Lashoff , Climate Center Director at NRDC.

“I want to emphasize that when we say the toxic 20 in relation to the states, that’s exactly what we mean” says Lashoff. “The EPA estimates that the reduction of toxic pollution required by the pending mercury and air toxic standards would save as many as 17,000 lives every year by 2015, and prevent up to a 120,000 of childhood asthma symptoms.”

He says the new standards would also prevent lost work days and reduce the number of emergency room visits. The EPA standards are expected to be finalized in November and they are taking public comments until August 4th, 2011. Lashoff says both industry and some members of Congress are seeking to delay the mercury and air toxics standard for at least another year, despite the potential health benefits.

Dr. Lynn Ringenberg, co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, says she’s seen a dramatic increase in the number of children with severe asthma, learning disabilities, and developmental issues in recent years and she blames that in part on increased air pollution.

“Toxic 20 is not too strong of a label; coal pollution, it really is harming and killing Americans” she says. “And it is America’s biggest source of air pollution. The air toxins from coal-fired power plants cause cancer, they cause birth defects, cardiac problems, respiratory illnesses. And just one of those toxins mercury, damages the developing brains of fetuses, infants and small children.”

Dr. Ringenberg says if the EPA standards are adopted, it could cut mercury emissions by 91% and sulfur dioxide emissions by 53%.

Dan Lashoff says the information in the NRDC report is based on actual emissions from coal- and oil-fired plants as compiled by the EPA. But American Electric Power says the report released by the NRDC is too narrowly focused on electric utilities. AEP also questions the conclusions drawn by the NRDC challenging the idea that reducing emissions in the US can significantly affect climate change.

In a statement from AEP, the company says it opposes mandatory reductions in C02 emissions because such an effort would have profound economic and societal implications and has not been justified by sound scientific analysis.

You can read the report and find the list of the “Toxic 20” for yourself by visiting

For the full methodology, see the analysis at

Story By

Heather Niday

Heather is our Program Director and Traffic Manager. She started with Allegheny Mountain Radio as a volunteer deejay. She then joined the AMR staff in February of 2007. Heather grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and now lives in Arbovale, West Virginia with her husband Chuck. Heather is a wonderful flute player, and choir director for Arbovale UMC. You can hear Heather along with Chuck on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8pm as they host two hours of jazz on Something Different.

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