NAACP says coal-fired plants hurting low-income, minority areas

2011-07-14T00:00:00Z 2013-11-27T15:11:35Z NAACP says coal-fired plants hurting low-income, minority areasBy Bowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com

Nearly half of Indiana coal-fired power plants are being called "top environmental offenders" in a report the NAACP released Wednesday, and the State Line Energy plant in Hammond was rated as the fifth-worst in the nation.

The organization's report, "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Over People," also said the plants do significant and disproportionate amount of harm to low-income communities and communities of color.

Analyzing plants' emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides and demographic factors of where the plants are located, the NAACP said "environmental justice scores" were given for each of the nation's 431 coal-fired power plants. The State Line electric generating plant was rated as the fifth-worst in the nation and the Michigan City Generating Station also received a failing grade. Two of the top three worst offending plants are in Chicago.

A spokesman from Dominion Energy, which owns the State Line plant, was not able to be reached for comment Wednesday.

NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said the company uses coal to generate power because of its abundance, reliability and efficiency. But it also expanded its own power generation portfolio in recent years and provides incentives for customers who produce electricity from renewable sources.

"The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the federal government sets these standards for utilities to comply with and NIPSCO is currently in compliance with regard to air emission limits," Meyer said. "And our long-term environmental investment plan that we annouced in the beginning of the year helps us continue (to remain) in compliance as (rules) get tighter."

The NAACP is advocating to enhance energy efficiency and clean energy production in the country while ensuring measures are in place to reduce community exposure to pollutants.

National, state and local NAACP leaders also will lead events Friday in Michigan City.

Jacqui Patterson, director of the NAACP's Environmental and Climate Justice Department, said the organization wants to galvanize interest and action on this environmental issue among constituents. After that, Patterson said the organization will encourage decision-makers to continue the level of environmental protections for citizens with the goal of making them more strict to better protect people from pollution.

A teach-in will be held to train NAACP members to encourage action among residents from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday at the Clarion Inn & Suites, 5820 S. Franklin Road in Michigan City.

At a town hall meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m., residents from affected areas will provide testimonials on the impact of the facilities. This event will be at the Hope Center, 222 McClelland Ave. in Michigan City.

Starting at 8 p.m., a prayer vigil will take place in front of the Michigan City Generating Station, across from Pullman Field on Ind. 12. 

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