The Pollution of PATH

Reminder: Air pollution is not just a technical issue.  Or an aesthetic one.  Air quality is regulated because pollution kills people. Ozone and fine particulates attack the lungs, contributing to disease and premature deaths.  Greenhouse gases raise global temperatures and destabilize the climate: more intense storms, floods and heat waves also kill people.  Most likely to suffer are the very young, the elderly and the infirm.

If no person you care about fits into one of those categories and if you yourself will never be old or infirm, then you don’t need to be concerned about air quality.  Everybody else, read on.

The PATH transmission project is designed to make it easier to move coal-generated electricity from the western part of the PJM region into the east (Virginia, Maryland, DC, New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey).

According to testimony filed with the Virginia State Corporations Commission by Chris James, former director of Air Planning for Connecticut’s Department of Environmental Protection, the construction of PATH could raise CO2 emissions by as much as 15 million tons per year if the demand for electricity increases (about five percent of PJM’s total carbon dioxide emissions).  Sulfur dioxide (SOX) emissions would increase by 90,000 tons and NOX emissions by 22,000.

Carbon dioxide spreads out in the atmosphere, adding to global concentration levels.  Marylanders will be impacted by rising water levels in the Chesapeake Bay as well as longer and more frequent heat waves, according to the Maryland Commission on Climate Change.

SOX and NOX injure and kill in a different way, depending on the local weather conditions.  SOX and NOX contribute to the formation of “fine particulates” under the right conditions; NOX can produce ground-level ozone.  Both are deadly.  EPA is so concerned about ground-level ozone that standards were tightened in 2008.

Prevailing weather patterns mean that more pollution from coal-fired plants in the Ohio Valley will flow eastwards.  According to James, research shows that “long-range transport is responsible for 40 – 80 percent of the air pollution that is measured in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore metropolitan areas.”

On “Code Red” days, when ozone is expected to be high, residents are encouraged to remain indoors and run their air conditioners.  If PATH is built, then higher air conditioning use will mean more coal burning in western PJM.  That will mean more “Code Red” days and more air conditioning, and so on.  Combined with global warming, it’s a vicious cycle that means more revenues for AEP and PJM.

AEP and PJM — aren’t they the folks who say we “must” build PATH?

Read the letter opposing PATH from the Board of Advisors of the American Lung Association in West Virginia.

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2 responses to “The Pollution of PATH

  1. Pingback: Transmission Update « Maryland Energy Report

  2. Pingback: Federal Law Requires a Full EIS for PATH « Maryland Energy Report

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