Last updated on June 23, 2020
Air Pollution beyond Coal Power Plants, what to know about? The increased level of atmospheric pollution is a global concern that is increasingly becoming an issue in recent years and will continue to be disturbing if it is not controlled in the future. Air pollution directly affects health, vegetation, soil, living organisms, and buildings. The air pollution moves over long distances, and in the state of Kentucky, most of the pollution has been blamed on other States. Some of the air pollutants cause negative processes in the protective ozone layer and contribute to the greenhouse gas effect. Therefore, it is essential to protect the air by taking actions that will ensure the best air quality that deters respiratory health ailments. In this paper, the causes of air pollution and the air-pollution control measures and policies advanced in the State of Kentucky, and the United States, in general, will be discussed. Although other states within the United States have achieved significant improvements in air quality, the state of air quality in Kentucky needs some upgrades.
Kentucky features among the states with the most toxic air pollution from the numerous power plants, which have increased over time because of continued industrialization. The United States and Kentucky as a whole depend on coal as a source of energy since it is being touted to be cheaper compared to the other sources of energy (Clarence & Mazurek, 1999). The difference between Kentucky and other states is that Kentucky has failed to adopt any state law or regulation relative to other states that would control the activities of the power plants and substantially reduce the toxic pollution. Coal-fired power plants can be considered cheap if the health and environmental impacts are ignored in entirety. The actual price of using coal is externalized to the society by not only producing carbon dioxide but also the numerous health problems associated with the toxins emanating from such engines. There are also other power plants that generate power, using fossil fuels such as Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). TVA has tried by endeavoring to make the production of power as clean as possible in keeping up with the contemporary approach to minimizing environmental pollution. Nearly 80% of the pollution in Kentucky comes from power plants that burn coal or oil. The solution to the control of air pollution in Kentucky is to come up with legislation that will force the power plants to install new pollution controls mechanisms
TVA is a power plant located in Western Kentucky that uses coal to produce power. The plant produces more than 14 billion kilowatts enough to power 950,000 homes across the United States. The regulatory and control measures for air pollution has necessitated TVA to take a number of steps that would ensure that they efficiently generate as clean power as possible. The measures taken include using wet scrubbers to get rid of Sulphur dioxide from the three Paradise units and using the over-fire air technology, which reduces the amount of oxygen that will react to form nitrogen oxides (Greenebaum Doll & McDonald PLLC, 2001). TVA has also upgraded the performance of its scrubbers in units 1 and 2 since 2012 in support of the environmental protection agreements. The realization of its vision of producing clean energy, TVA has invested approximately US$ 1 billion in building a gas-fired plant meant to replace paradise 1 and 2. In 2011 TVA had struck a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other state bodies to reduce the environmental effects of its power production on land, air, and water ( Kuklinska, Wolska, & Namiesnik, 2015). The generation of clean air rules in the United States by EPA has been focused on the coal-fired power plants to control the mercury emission.
The provisions of the EPA Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) dictate the limits for the minimum levels of Hg emissions allowed from the coal-fired power plants. By calling for increased flu-gas desulfurization of the coal power plants, CAIR would have directly cut the Hg emissions in the eastern parts of the United States as CAMR sets strict guidelines throughout the United States for emissions. The U.S Court of Appeal District of Columbia vacated both the CAIR and CAMR, but U.S Supreme Court upheld the latter. EPA is working with state authorities to determine the unhealthy peak of nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, which are associated with multiple respiratory conditions including increased asthma symptoms, and emergency hospital visits (The United States Clean Air Act, 2005). The deterioration in the health of individuals is part of a bigger problem associated with environmental pollution. The increase in the quality of air minimizes medical conditions and reduces the burden on the individual, health facilities, and the government. The EPA was able to phase out lead in the United States when it became a nationwide health concern by banning the addition of lead in gasoline. The EPA testing of coal-fired power plants smokestacks found that the plants released 67 different air toxics among them 55 of which are known neurotoxins that cause developmental damage to the brains and the nervous system of children (Watson, Bates, Kennedy, & Health Effects Institute, 1998).
In the past, air pollution was considered to stem from industries and motor vehicles. While these two categories remain the most significant contributors to air pollution, there are sources of air pollution that contribute significantly to air pollution. These local sources include small industries, and people activities, such as open burning, agricultural activities, and painting. Cumulatively put together, these events have an impact on the environment because the toxins produced from the activities individually might not have an impact but collectively decreases the quality of air. Researchers conducted at the University of Kentucky coal-heating power plant found the concentrations of toxins to have exceeded the EPA recommended standards (Reitze, 2001). The fact that the power plant is on a small scale raises no concerns, but the high toxic emissions expose the University of Kentucky community to these harmful toxins from the coal-fired boilers. The coal-fired boilers plants at the University of Kentucky are emitting more harmful toxins than the new coal power plants. The coal combustion waste is used by the university to remove ice during winter (Kuklinska et al., 2015). The use of coal combustion waste is harmful as it can drain into private wells contaminating drinking water. In 2016, the survey conducted showed improvement in particle air pollution, but the report also found unhealthy levels of ozone in the many counties of Kentucky, which are of serious concerns (American Lung Association, 2017). Ozone is known to cause health complications when inhaled in large quantities or over an extended period. The health consequence adds to the environmental impact of ozone by adding to the greenhouse gas effect.
The particle pollution is made of soot or tiny pellets emanating from coal-fired power plants, wildfires, diesel emissions, and wood-burning devices. The particles are tiny and can lodge deep in the lungs triggering asthmatic attacks, strokes and heart attacks. The solution to particle pollution involves cleanup of coal-fired power plants and retirement of dirty old diesel engines. The success of the United States in air pollution control may be attributed to technology improvements, such as particulate, catalytic converters, and stacks rubbers. The end of pipe treatments has been efficient in reducing gas and aerosol emissions by damaging health pollutants (Holloway, 2015). However, this approach may not last through the 21st century. There is the fewer end of pipe solutions to the control of carbon dioxide, which is the next major challenge for the United States air quality. There is a need to control carbon dioxide, but it can only be done through the large-scale overhaul of the energy production system. The United States energy system will be shaped by carbon and air control policies at the local, state and national levels. The air quality management occurs primarily through interaction between state cadre, resource management agencies and the federal EPA. The engagement of new stakeholders will be needed for the effective control of greenhouse gas and health-damaging emissions (Hower et al., 2010). All the stakeholders have a role to play in providing expertise in the process of formulating policies, laws, and regulations to curb extensive air pollution.
The integration of climate and air quality planning can yield big benefits, including pollution control cost reduction. When the value of health and air quality benefits in carbon policies, the cost of carbon mitigation is reduced, and money may be saved on air pollution control (Redgwell, 2008). Three broad methods can be used to reduce emissions from energy use. First, is to reduce the energy consumption, secondly is to reduce the emissions per unit of fuel combusted and cut the fuel burned to meet energy demands. The technology solutions applied to control emissions of health-damaging air pollutants for the most part, but the control of emissions was addressed without fuel or energy reductions. Other than the expensive carbon capture and storage, using the technology approach is difficult (Moore, 2004). It is difficult to control the carbon emissions without reducing the use of fuel, and therefore the best way to reduce carbon is to switch to lower carbon fuels such as biofuels or natural gas (Vallero, 2014). Contrary to reactive particles and gases, there are no technological solutions for fewer carbon emissions from the same amount of a particular fuel.
Most of the air pollution arising from the power plants that use oil and coal in the United States. Using coal for power production is considered cheap but only when the harmful effects of carbon emissions and other harmful toxins. The state of Kentucky is notoriously plagued with air pollution for not being able to adopt any state legislation for air pollution control. TVA, which is the largest power-producing firm, and has been using coal for years since 1963, has put up measures to reduce air pollution. Besides, the company has invested heavily to move to gas-fired power production facility to replace most of its power production using coal. The large companies contribute to air pollution, but also the small industries and people’s activity. The University of Kentucky has four coal-fired boilers that are dirty and inefficient and produce a lot of carbon and a collection of other toxins that are harmful to the university community. The use of technology in controlling carbon emissions cannot be useful in the end. Changing the fuels used for power production is the most efficient way to reduce carbon emissions.
The United States and the state of Kentucky should rethink the sources of power production and adopt more green energy solutions. The use of coal and fossil fuel acts to aggravate air pollution. The use of coal for any activity no matter how small the enterprise should be subject to EPA regulations since air pollution and health hazards are affecting the immediate community. Learning institutions should invest in alternative sources of clean energy, noting that they have the capacity to research and also conduct group funding from students who are most affected by the hazards of air pollution.