The Price of Pollution Politics: Eight Companies Attacking Clean Air Standards…and the Toll on America's Health

A handful of companies are spending millions to finance an assault on clean air -- lobbying and litigating to block, weaken and delay clean air standards that would save lives and protect Americans' health from the power sector's dangerous and deadly air pollution. Leading this effort to weaken, delay or block cleaner air standards are eight companies that spent a combined $67 million lobbying Congress between 2010 and the first quarter of 2012, including on EPA clean air standards and authority, among other topics. Their coal-fired power plants generated enough air pollution last year to contribute to as many as 10,300 deaths, 65,000 asthma attacks and incidents, 6,600 hospital and emergency room visits, and 3.4 million lost work-days.

All told, the combined economic toll for that pollution reaches as high as $78 billion, based on a new analysis conducted for the Natural Resources Defense Council by energy consulting firm MSB Energy Associates, Inc. The analysis is based on a widely-accepted, peer-reviewed model that links air pollution to adverse health consequences.

The eight companies are American Electric Power (AEP), Ameren, DTE Energy, Energy Future Holdings, FirstEnergy, GenOn, PPL and Southern Company. The coal-fired power plants owned by these companies emitted more than 2.3 million tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and soot, along with more than 580 million tons of industrial carbon dioxide and 22,820 pounds of mercury, into the air in 2011.