Photo: Ken Yu
For the second straight year, Indiana is near the top of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Toxic 20 list for states with the worst air pollution.
The NRDC uses data from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop its Toxic 20 list, a ranking of each state according to the amount of air pollution emitted from its power plants. Last year, Indiana ranked sixth worst in the nation. This year, it moved down to fourth worst, despite a 2-percent improvement in the state’s air quality.
NRDC Clean Air Director John Walke says other states significantly improved, making Indiana drop in the rankings. And he says states are improving in two key ways.
“The first is the increasing use by power companies of natural gas, which is a cheaper and less polluting fuel,” he says. “The second factor is the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls by many plants.”
Indiana Department of Environmental Management spokesperson Robert Elstro says Indiana’s air quality has steadily improved over the last several years, and the only areas of the state that do not meet federal standards are already implementing measures to do so.
Elstro says the solutions are not as simple as the NRDC indicates.
“There’s a lot of different things that happens when a facility changes from one fuel source to another and it doesn’t always drop pollution across the board,” he says.
Elstro says IDEM uses both state and federal programs that regulate large power plants and smaller pollution sources like motor vehicles to continue improving the state’s air quality.