Report: Stopping Global Warming

Ohio's Biggest Mercury Polluters

Released by: Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center

Executive Summary

This report details how cleaning up power plants in the state and across the nation will protect our health.

Power plants continue to release large amounts of toxic mercury. In 2010, more than two-thirds of all airborne mercury pollution in Ohio came from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. 

Mercury is a neurotoxicant. When children are exposed to mercury during critical periods of development, it can contribute to irreversible deficits in verbal skills, damage to attention and motor control, and reduced IQ. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed the first national standards limiting mercury and other toxic pollution from power plants. Implementing these standards will protect public health. 

Coal-fired power plants in Ohio are a major source of airborne mercury pollution. 

  • The American Electric Power Gavin Plant in Cheshire emitted the most mercury pollution of any power plant in Ohio in 2010, releasing 829 pounds. This amount is significant. One small drop of mercury is enough to make the fish in a 25-acre lake unsafe to eat.
  • The Gavin Plant ranked as the ninth most polluting power plant for mercury emissions in the nation.  
  • Eight of the top 100 most polluting power plants for mercury emissions in the country are located in Ohio. 
  • Among all states nationwide, Ohio ranked second in terms of the total amount of airborne mercury pollution released by power plants – 4,208 pounds. 

New EPA standards will limit mercury pollution from power plants and protect public health. 

  • Under the authority of the Clean Air Act, EPA has developed the first national standard limiting releases of mercury and other toxic air pollutants from power plants. As proposed in March, 2011, these standards will require power plant owners to cut overall emissions of mercury by more than 90 percent using widely available, proven pollution control technologies. 
  • The new emission standards will improve public health. EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, the American public and American businesses will see up to $13 in health and economic benefits. In total, the rules could provide as much as $140 billion worth of benefits annually. 
  • EPA should finalize and implement these new safeguards.