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September 8, 2009

James Gignac, 312-251-1680 x147 (office), 312-771-9991 (cell)
Grant Smith, 317-205-3535
John Blair, 812-464-5663

Indiana Regulators Failing to Protect Public Health
Coal Plant Project Will Exceed Air Quality Standards for Harmful Pollutants

Indianapolis, IN: A coalition of environmental and consumer groups have urged the Indiana Department of Environmental Management ("IDEM") to do more to protect Indiana's respiratory health and air quality. Sierra Club, Valley Watch, and Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana submitted comments to IDEM last week showing that Duke Energy's proposed coal plant in Edwardsport will violate air quality standards for a dangerous and harmful form of pollution known as fine particulate matter, or soot, which can lodge deep inside the lungs and cause serious health problems.

"Duke's project will further contribute to an already poor air quality situation in Indiana," said Grant Smith, Executive Director of Citizen Action Coalition. "The state has an obligation to protect public health and they are not living up to it," continued Smith.

More than 24,000 premature deaths are caused each year by fine particle pollution from coal plants. Fine soot pollution can also trigger asthma attacks and other serious respiratory and heart problems, particularly in at-risk populations such as children and older adults. Studies have shown that over 1 million children live within 30 miles of Indiana coal plants. And soot pollution from coal plants in Indiana alone already cost the state $5 billion in excess health care costs, according to the Department of Public Health at Indiana University Medical School.

"It appears that Duke's profit margins are more important to IDEM than adding to the heavy premature death and asthma toll that Hoosiers are subjected to from coal plants now," said John Blair with Valley Watch.

A federal district court recently ordered Duke to shut down one of its existing plants that was found by an Indiana jury to be in violation of the Clean Air Act. In its ruling, the federal court found that there is no safe level of fine particulate matter-the same pollutant that Duke's new plant will increase above federal standards.

Under the Clean Air Act, if state air permits do not meet minimum standards, the federal Environmental Protection Agency is obligated to step in and protect public health and air quality. "Duke's proposed plant should not be allowed to move forward until it can guarantee that it will comply with the law," said James Gignac, Midwest Director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "If IDEM fails to do its job, we will be urging the federal government to step in before communities are impacted by this coal plant," continued Gignac.

In the comments submitted to IDEM, the groups noted that Duke's plant will overshoot one particulate matter limit by 18 percent. The limits are currently in the process of being strengthened by the federal government which means that the Duke plant will be even farther out of compliance with air quality regulations.



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