Report Finds Midwest Generation’s Waukegan Coal Plant Caused Up To $690 Million in Health Damages Since 2002

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Environmental Law & Policy Center Explains Midwest Generation’s “Unpaid Health Bills”: The Hidden Public Costs of Soot and Smog from the Waukegan Coal Plant

Pollution from Midwest Generation’s Waukegan coal plant has caused up to $690 million in health and related damages in the last 8 years, according to a report released today by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). The report uses data from the National Research Council finding that particulate matter (soot), from the Waukegan coal plant creates about $86 million in health and related damages annually. Overall, this coal plant has created between $520 million and $690 million in public health damages since 2002.

“The Waukegan coal plant is polluting our air, harming our health and draining our wallets,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “It’s time for Midwest Generation to be socially responsible and invest in modern pollution control equipment to clean up this old plant up, or shut it down.  Enough is enough.”

The Waukegan coal plant is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in Northeastern Illinois, about 40 miles north of Chicago and 50 miles south of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  More than 67,000 people live within three miles of the plant. The plant still operates using equipment built between 1958 and 1963, and Midwest Generation, the plant’s owner, has not installed modern pollution controls such as scrubbers.

ELPC’s report, Midwest Generation’s “Unpaid Health Bills”: The Hidden Public Costs of Soot and Smog from the Waukegan Coal Plant,” examines recent scientific research on the health effects of soot and smog pollution from coal plants. Numerous authoritative scientific panels have found that particulate matter pollution from coal plants harms public health, causing various health detriments including premature death, heart attacks, and cardiovascular and respiratory disease. The personal hardship and economic impact of these health problems is borne by the public.

The report adds new information to the debate on how coal plants in Illinois should be operated and regulated. In 2006, after a public advocacy campaign by ELPC and other health and environmental and children’s advocacy groups, the Illinois Pollution Control Board ordered Midwest Generation to reduce toxic mercury emissions at Waukegan and other coal plants in Northern Illinois. A related order requires Midwest Generation to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution at the Waukegan coal plant by the end of 2014.

“Soot and smog from the Waukegan coal plant is making us sick and costing us hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Learner. “It’s time to reduce this pollution – that’s the right thing to do for our environment and our economy.”

Click here to download Midwest Generation’s “Unpaid Health Bills”: The Hidden Public Costs of Soot and Smog From the Waukegan Coal Plant in Illinois.