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Coal plant hazards

A recent report by two Minnesota environmental groups documents the health hazards of coal plants that generate much of the electricity consumed in the state. "Licence to Pollute: Minnesota's Coal Plants and the Dirty Power Loophole" shows that coal plants are the biggest polluters in Minnesota, says Bill Grant of the Izaak Walton League of America, which co-produced the report with the Clean Water Fund. "Under archaic loopholes in the clean air laws, these plants spew toxic gases, heavy metals and fine particulates into our air." The 1977 Clean Air Act did not require existing coal plants to meet new emissions standards -- and some of the plants are still operating with equipment that is a generation out of date. "When the real costs associated with these old plants are accounted for, clean renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are economically viable," says Steve Brick, technical consultant on the report. "As it stands now the loopholes encourage pollution and cause alternative clean technologies to be under utilised." Those especially susceptible to the health hazards are people with lung diseases such as asthma, babies and children, and those who exercise. Toxins from the industry, such as mercury, also pollute water. Fully 94% of all lakes tested by the states health department have dangerous levels of mercury.

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