NASHVILLE, TN (WRCB) -– Tennessee is the 11th worst state in the nation when it comes to exposing residents to toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants, according to an analysis released today in Tennessee by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an international nonprofit environmental organization.

The NRDC-compiled data show:

* Tennessee's electric sector ranked 11th in industrial toxic air pollution in 2010, emitting more than 9.6 million pounds of harmful chemicals, which accounted for 37 percent of state pollution and about 3 percent of toxic pollution from all U.S. power plants.

* Tennessee ranked 21st among all states in industrial mercury air pollution from power plants with about 1,250 pounds emitted in 2010, which accounted for 65 percent of state mercury air pollution and 2 percent of U.S. electric sector mercury pollution.  

Finalized in 2011, EPA's Mercury and Air Toxics standards will cut mercury air pollution by 79 percent from 2010 levels, beginning in 2015.

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander opposed the repeal of the mercury and air toxic standards proposed by Sen. James Inhofe, R.-Okla.; Senator Bob Corker supported it.  

The states on the "Toxic 20" list (from worst to best) are:

  1. Kentucky
  2. Ohio
  3. Pennsylvania
  4. Indiana
  5. West Virginia
  6. Florida
  7. Michigan
  8. North Carolina
  9. Georgia
  10. Texas
  11. Tennessee
  12. Virginia
  13. South Carolina
  14. Alabama
  15. Missouri
  16. Illinois
  17. Mississippi
  18. Wisconsin
  19. Maryland
  20. Delaware

The EPA's Toxic Release Inventory, known as the TRI, is a national database of toxic emissions self-reported by industrial sources. Power plants report emission of mercury, hydrochloric acid, and other hazardous metals.

NRDC released the first "Toxic 20" report in July 2011. The analysis used publicly-available data in the TRI to rank states by air pollution levels from 2009. Using the same methodology, today's analysis compared TRI emissions reported for 2010 from the electric utilities sector to those from other sectors and ranked sources by total emissions by sector.  The analysis identifies top emitting power plants based on toxic emissions reported to TRI.
To read the report in its entirety -  "Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States."