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Indiana Ranks Fourth Worst In Nation For Air Pollution

While Indiana's air quality has improved, its ranking relative to other states has worsened.

coal plant

Photo: Ken Yu

A coal-fired plant in Vevay.

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.

Brandon Smith, IPBS

Brandon Smith, IPBS has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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  • Maya

    Appalling! Really hope our legislators and others will take this seriously. Too many kids (and adults) with asthma suffering from bad air. Indiana can do better! Thanks for the story Brandon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=830140701 Alexander Matthew Lesher

    Sorry, I missed this before and it is probably too late for any impact. BUT, it should be considered that Indiana has a wealth more industry than many other states in the USA. A lot of those facilities, on an individual level, do a great deal to comply with their area regulations. In addition, the IDEM is one of the most efficient state environmental organizations in the country and they really try hard. These are factors to consider when reading this. I have a good idea of who the major polluters of air are in this state, but I will keep my tongue held.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=830140701 Alexander Matthew Lesher

    Also, that picture with the caption ”
    A coal-fired plant in Vevay emits gases into the air.” is very misleading. Those gases are most likely water vapor as a lot of major energy facilities did a good job 25-40 years ago of cutting back NOx entering the atmosphere.

  • http://indianapublicmedia.org Indiana Public Media

    Thanks for your comments. You are right, people could have mistaken the caption. We have simplified it.

  • Pingback: What are some areas that Indiana ranks first in? - City-Data Forum

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