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EPA: Harding Street Coal Plant responsible for 88% of Marion County’s toxic industrial pollution

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Toxic pollution linked to cancer and serious health problems
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Contact: 
Shane Levy - shane.levy@sierraclub.org, 201-679-9507
Jodi Perras - jodi.perras@sierraclub.org, 317-296-8395

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indianapolis Power & Light’s Harding Street coal-fired power plant was responsible for 88 percent of the toxic industrial pollution released in 2012 in Marion County, according to information released this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to EPA’s most recent Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data, the Harding Street plant released more than 1.6 million pounds of toxic pollutants into the air, land, and water in 2012, posing real public health threats to Indianapolis residents and those upwind and downstream from the plant. EPA's 2012 Toxic Release Inventory National Data Analysis shows that electric utilities nationwide are the number three source of toxic releases or disposal of toxic chemicals. EPA’s Harding Street data can be found here

"IPL's corporate profits should not come at the expense of my family's right to breath clean air or to live in a community free from contaminated soil and water," said Heidi Hesse, a single mom who lives downwind of the plant on Indianapolis' east side.  "I teach my son to clean up the messes he makes:  The time is past for IPL to clean up its messes for the benefit of all Indianapolis residents."

“EPA’s latest data shows 10 of the top 15 toxic polluters in Indiana are coal-fired power plants, including the Harding Street plant,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.“The Harding Street plant was Indy’s largest polluter in 2000, and it is more so today as other industries have reduced their toxic emissions over time. It’s time for IPL to become a good neighbor, to stop burning coal in Marion County by 2020 and replace the Harding Street plant with clean, renewable energy.”

Chemicals reported to EPA through the Toxic Release Inventory are those that cause cancer or other chronic and severe human health problems or significant environmental damage, including lead, arsenic and damaging acids. According to the 2012 TRI data, IPL’s Harding Street coal-fired power plant ranked as one of the worst100 polluters among electric utilities nationwide. Since 2000, IPL’s Harding Street coal-fired power plant has released more than 25 million pounds of toxic pollutants into Marion County’s air, land, and water, according to data submitted to EPA by IPL. 

The chart below shows the IPL Harding Street power plant’s share of total toxic releases in Marion County since 2000, compared to toxic emissions from other industries that submit reports via the Toxic Release Inventory.

The chart below shows total toxic releases over time from 2000-12. While other industries have reduced their toxic releases in Marion County, the IPL Harding Street plant has had no significant progress since 2000 in reducing the pollution it releases into the community’s air, land and water.
 

According to EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History On-line (ECHO) database, the plant has also been shown to be in “significant non-compliance” with environmental safeguards at least since 2010. These violations include significant violations of the Clean Air Act for at least 12 quarters in a row, and non-compliance with the Clean Water Act for six quarters in a row. Yet civil penalties of only $9,000 for air quality violations have been assessed.

The Clean Air Task Force has also found that pollution from IPL’s Harding Street coal-fired power plant contributes to an astounding 76 premature deaths, 120 heart attacks, and 1,300 asthma attacks every year.

"As a physician, I see patients from lower socioeconomic and medically underserved neighborhoods, and one of the most frequently prescribed medications in our office is an inhaler that asthmatics use to relieve shortness of breath. It is sad to consider that, in 2013, preventable air pollution in Indianapolis contributes to suffering, disability and death of our friends, co-workers, and neighbors,” said Dr. Stephen J. Jay, an Indianapolis physician.

The NAACP’s 2012 Coal Blooded report gave the IPL Harding Street plant an F rating for its impact on low-income communities and people of color.

"We want our energy providers to use cleaner energy sources in Marion County and the Greater Indianapolis area," said Chrystal Ratcliffe, Indianapolis NAACP President.

"We are calling for the Harding Street coal-fired power plant's retirement by 2016. We also want a just transition that ensures that not one worker should be out of employment as a result of the shutdown," said Barbara Bolling Williams, Indiana NAACP State President.

The Toxic Release Inventory established the public’s right to know what is being released into their community by large industries, so they can encourage companies to improve environmental performance. EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory tracks certain toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment. U.S. industrial facilities must report annually how much of each chemical is released to the environment and/or managed through recycling, energy recovery and treatment. A "release" of a chemical means that it is emitted to the air or water, or placed in some type of land disposal.

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