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Entergy's Independence Power Plant near Newark, Ark. is polluting the air in Memphis, according to Sierra Clubs in Tennessee and Arkansas.
Coal-fired power plants in Arkansas are polluting Memphis’ air.
That’s according to a new report released last week from Sierra Clubs in Tennessee and Arkansas. The groups hired California-based Sonoma Technology Inc. to review the impacts of emissions from the White Bluff and Independence power plants, operated by Entergy, Arkansas’ largest utility.
The study found those two power plants — one south of Little Rock, the other in north east Arkansas near Newark — “emit enough pollution to raise the levels of unhealthy ozone smog in the Memphis area,” according to a news statement from the the Sierra Clubs.
In 2008, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said they Memphis' ozone levels were too high and out of compliance with federal air utility standards. This put more stringent rules on local companies and agencies to pollute less.
The pollution was bad enough that the city was deemed the “Asthma Capital of the U.S.” by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, according to Scott Banbury, conservation program coordinator with the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club.
But the EPA said the city had cleaned up its air enough in 2016 to remove its noncompliance status. This meant, among other things, that the air was cleaner to breathe and that local companies could, once again, apply for air pollution permits.
The air in Memphis will also be cleaner soon thanks to the retirement of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s coal-burning energy plant here, which is slated to happen sometime this year.
“Now this improvement is undercut by evidence that pollution from the smokestacks of Entergy’s Arkansas coal plants is blowing east over the state line, directly into Memphis communities,” Banbury said in a statement.
The report used data from 2011. Banbury said the said it was the same data set "EPA used the last time they did modeling for ozone attainment in 2015. There's no reason to believe it's any better now.”
The report found that the Arkansas energy plants impact Memphis ozone layers “around 32 days every summer.” In general, the ozone levels at the plants themselves are about four times “the amount public health agencies qualify as a significant amount,” the groups said in a news statement.
The resolve the issue, the Sierra Clubs said Entergy could should install pollution controls that have “been around for about 20 years.”
“These dirty coal plants are some of the largest coal-burning units in the entire country that lack modern pollution controls,” said Glen Hooks, director of the Arkansas Sierra Club. “We've been battling Entergy’s pollution in Arkansas for years.
“To see this same pollution from the White Bluff and Independence coal plants contributing to smog not only to our state but also to the communities of Memphis and St. Louis is even more outrageous.”