'/> Uncommon Hours: April 2012
Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sierra Club: Coal plants emit excessive pollution in Kansas City, Kan.

Sierra Club plans legal action against BPU for air permit violations that may harm public health

Kansas City, Kan. – The Sierra Club will today notify the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (BPU) that it intends to file suit against the utility to address excessive amounts of air pollution from the smoke stacks of its Nearman Creek and Quindaro coal-fired electric plants in Kansas City.

“The amount of pollution these plants are currently emitting into the air residents breathe exceeds a permit limit set by state and federal agencies,” said Scott Allegrucci, Campaign Representative for Sierra Club. “This limit was established to protect public health, and BPU needs to address the violation.”

The Sierra Club’s notice of intent to sue charges that BPU frequently exceeds the 20 percent opacity limit specified in BPU’s air quality permits, based on evidence from BPU’s own pollution monitors. Opacity monitors in the stacks of each power plant continuously project a beam of light across the inside of the stack to measure the darkness of the plume, and therefore the amount of particulate matter. If more than 20 percent of the light is absorbed or deflected by the pollution, the opacity limit has been exceeded.

“BPU is using the same type of particulate controls that it installed over forty years ago at Quindaro,” said Craig Volland, Chair of the Kansas Sierra Club Chapter’s Air Quality Committee. “It’s time for BPU to join the modern world of pollution controls.”

Unlike many other power plants in the country, BPU has not installed the latest technology at Nearman Creek and Quindaro.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), particles, especially fine particles, aggravate asthma, decrease lung function, and can lead to chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, nonfatal heart attacks and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. Children and older adults are the most vulnerbale to particle pollution exposure.

“My daughter has asthma and it upsets me that BPU is emitting any more pollution than their permit allows,” said Delores Daniels, a member of the Executive Committee of the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club. Daniels lives less than two miles from the Quindaro Power Station.

Both the Nearman Creek and Quindaro power stations are located in the Missouri River valley, just north of the most densely populated part of Wyandotte County, Kansas. There are no monitors in the immediate vicinity of either plant that could measure the particle concentrations at ground level where people breathe the air.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Senate Rejects Effort to End Tax Breaks for Biggest Oil Companies

Washington, D.C. – A minority of U.S. Senators have blocked legislation that would end the costly and unnecessary tax subsidies currently doled out to the nation’s five biggest oil companies.

According to the Congressional Research Service, ending these tax breaks would have “little to no impact” on gas prices, while maintaining the handouts to BP, Exxon, Shell, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips will cost taxpayers an estimated $24 billion over the next ten years.

In response, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“Today’s vote is the latest reminder of what we knew all along: big oil companies and their lackeys in Congress will do whatever it takes to squeeze every penny possible out of American families, whether it’s shirking taxes or price-gouging at the gas pump.

“It is obscene that a handful of wealthy oil executives are demanding billions in handouts from the government while ordinary Americans pay their fair share of taxes on top of four-dollar-a-gallon gas. And, it is shameful that a minority of obstructionist Senators are doing big oil’s bidding against the will of their constituents – the majority of whom support ending unfair tax subsidies for big oil.

“Big oil companies and speculators who are driving up prices at the pump don’t need any more of our help. We need our leaders to focus on real solutions to break our dangerous dependence on fossil fuels, and invest in clean energy solutions to ease Americans’ pain at the pump and create jobs. Unfortunately, the Senate missed an opportunity today to take an important step in moving beyond oil.”