If you stuck around and slogged through the vice presidential debate Tuesday night, you might have heard Republican candidate Mike Pence talk about Democrats’ “war on coal.” Pence’s running mate has been using this language a lot recently, too. It’s very obviously an attempt to court disenfranchised white voters in places like Appalachia, where coal production has plummeted due to the emergence of cleaner and cheaper energy sources like natural gas. This here is a pretty handy chart.
Last week, the Center for Public Integrity published a superbly researched report called “America’s Super Polluters.” You should read it. Among the findings of its nine-month investigation are that a small number of facilities in the country produce a huge percentage of the overall pollution in the United States. Four of them are in Governor Pence’s home state of Indiana. In fact, Indiana’s industrial greenhouse-gas emissions are “second only to Texas in the United States and exceed those from Israel, Greece and 185 other countries,” the report notes.
Several of the country’s “super polluters” are operated by Charlotte-based Duke Energy. They include the Gibson Station power plant, in Owensville, Indiana; the Crystal River power plant, in Crystal River, Florida; and the Miami Fort power plant, in North Bend, Ohio. (Duke recently sold this plant.)
The Zimmer power plant, in Moscow, Ohio; the W.C. Beckjord power plant, in New Richmond, Ohio; and the Wabash River power plant, in West Terra Haute, Indiana, have also recently been sold by Duke, but ranked in the top one hundred facilities accounting for toxic air emissions reported in 2014.
In North Carolina, the Roxboro power plant, in Semora, is the twenty-sixth-worst producer of greenhouse gases in the country, with Belews Creek power plant, in Walnut Cove, nipping at its heels at number twenty-eight. The Marshall power plant, in Terrell, clocks in at sixty-two.
But by far the worst-polluting Duke property is Gibson Station, in Owensville, the fourth-largest coal-powered plant in the country. Gibson released more greenhouse gas emissions than all but three other sites—not just plants, just general places where pollution can happen—in 2014. The CPI report pushed the company on this:
Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere told CPI that the company has “significantly reduced emissions” at Gibson, installing more than $1 billion in environmental controls there over the past 20 years. Some of that was negotiated in a 2014 settlement after the EPA said it found violations. Toxics Release Inventory air emissions at Gibson have shrunk by three-quarters since 2006, including a 19 percent drop between 2014 and 2015, Protogere said. Greenhouse-gas emissions dropped by a third over the last decade as power generation also fell.
Duke operates its plants “within EPA and state regulatory limits that are designed to protect public health and the environment,” she said.
Right—except Duke itself does not seem particularly concerned with designing its own policies “to protect public health and the environment.”