Statement of

 Norris McDonald

President

African American Environmentalist Association

 

Before the

Assembly Standing Committee on Energy

Assembly Standing Committee on Corporations, Authorities and Commissions

on

Potential Closure of Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC)

to

Examine the Impact of the Potential Closure of IPEC on New York's Economy and Electrical System, and Identify Alternatives to Offset or Replace Power Provided by IPEC

 

Assembly Hearing Room

250 Broadway

Room 1923, 19th Floor

New York City

 

 

 

 

January 12, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

My name is Norris McDonald and I am the founder and president of the African American Environmentalist Association (AAEA).  The African American Environmentalist Association was founded in 1985 and is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the environment, promoting the efficient use of natural resources, enhancing human,  animal and plant ecologies and increasing African American participation in the environmental movement.  AAEA, based in  Washington, DC, has chapters and members nationwide, offices in Nigeria and Kenya and a local New York office since 2001.

            This written statement is being submitted to describe our support for IPEC and its importance to New York.  AAEA believes that any substantial reduction in the amount of electricity generated by Indian Point 2 and 3 will spark demand for replacement electricity from nearby power plants.  Unfortunately, these nearby plants are, for the most part, pollution-emitting plants located in New York’s low-income and minority communities.  As production at these fossil-fuel plants increases, the air quality in and around these plants will further deteriorate, causing a spike in the incidences of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in the communities where these plants are based.  Some opponents of IPEC are even placing the interests of Hudson River fish eggs and larva over the health of New York’s low-income and minority communities.

            AAEA has a longstanding interest in reducing air pollution and promoting public health in low-income and minority communities, particularly in African American communities.  AAEA seeks to include an African American point of view in environmental policy decision-making and seeks to resolve environmental racism and injustice issues through the application of practical environmental solutions. 

 

           

 

 

The Benefits of Indian Point 2 and 3

            The Indian Point facilities, located in the affluent and predominantly white Westchester County, have a combined generating capacity of approximately 1910 MW.  The facilities provide approximately 20-30% of the electricity for New York City and its northern suburbs.  Because nuclear power is emission-free and has a demonstrated safety record, AAEA promotes the use of nuclear power.  AAEA specifically supports the Indian Point 2 and 3 nuclear power facilities because these facilities provide significant electrical capacity to the State of New York with minimal human, animal, air, water, and land impacts.

 

Charles River Associates and Synapse/Riverkeeper/NRDC Reports

 

            AAEA believes the Charles River Associates report more accurately reflects the energy reality for New York than the Synapse/Riverkeeper/NRDC report.  The major weakness of the Synapse Report is its projections for renewables and efficiency in meeting New York's future electricity needs.

 

Environmental Justice

If Indian Point closes, it will create serious environmental injustice issues. Neither the state nor the city have considered environmental justice issues in their evaluations of IPEC.  AAEA has requested such an analysis for years from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), but to date, no such analysis has been conducted.  The DEC should  conduct a complete environmental justice analysis pursuant to Presidential (Clinton) Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice.

            This omission is egregious, particularly in light of the DEC’s numerous policy pronouncements, including DEC Policy Statement CP-29: Environmental Justice and Permitting, issued on March 19, 2003, where DEC expressed its commitment to environmental justice.  In Policy Statement CP-29, DEC stated:

It is the general policy of DEC to promote environmental justice and incorporate measures for achieving environmental justice into its programs, policies, regulations, legislative proposals and activities.  This policy is specifically intended to ensure that DEC’s environmental permit process promotes environmental justice.

Unfortunately, DEC has not applied this policy in its deliberations regarding IPEC.

            In New York City, it is estimated that there are 2,290 deaths, 1,580 hospitalizations, 546 asthma-related emergency room visits, 1,490 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 46,200 asthma attacks yearly attributable to power plant pollution.[1]  The New York City area has also been ranked as one of the top five U.S. metropolitan areas for particulate air pollution.[2]  And again, these adverse effects disproportionately affect minority communities.  In one study, nonwhites in New York City were found to be hospitalized twice as many times as whites on days when ozone levels were high.[3]

            That African Americans and other minorities are disproportionately affected by air pollution in New York is not surprising when considering the fact that the majority of air-polluting power plants in the New York metropolitan area are located in African American and other minority communities. It is also well documented that bus depots and major thoroughfares are located in minority communities in New York.  Sewage treatment plants and trash transfer stations are also disproportionately located in minority communities in New York City.

            The Indian Point 2 and 3 facilities, located in the affluent and predominantly white Westchester County, have a combined generating capacity of 1910 MW.  The facilities provide approximately 20-30% of the electricity for New York City and its northern suburbs.  And, unlike New York’s fossil-fuel burning facilities, Indian Point 2 and 3 do not pollute the air.  AAEA does not oppose fossil fuel power plants, but we do oppose the disproportionate location of such plants in minority and African American communities.

            Closure of Indian Point will exacerbate compliance with the federal Clean Air Act State Implementation Plan (SIP) for the State of New York.  Such SIP-call noncompliance can lead to a loss of federal highway funds and other federal sanctions.  In addition to providing electricity for homes, businesses and agencies, the most important aspect of the Indian Point nuclear facility is that, while doing this, it does not contribute to asthma in the New York metropolitan area.  For asthmatics, particularly in overly polluted minority areas, the value of the Indian Point facility is priceless. Emission-free nuclear power is a godsend for asthmatics during the summer.  Emission-free electricity also protects healthy people who have not developed asthma.

            AAEA submits the following issues for consideration by the Standing Committee(s):

(1)          Whether the Standing Committee is considering all adverse environmental impacts if Indian Point 2 and 3 close, including air impacts on minority communities?

(2)          Whether the Standing Committee intends to consider  the negative impacts on air quality in low-income and minority communities, which will result from any substantial reduction in generation at Indian Point 2 and 3?

(3)          Whether the failure to consider all adverse environmental impacts in an IPEC closure, including air impacts in minority communities, renders any support for closure unsupportable?

AAEA’s issues are substantive and one fact is irrefutable: Nuclear produced electricity reduces smog.  The New York City Metropolitan Area, including Westchester County and the Northeast corridor are very large nonattainment areas that violate Clean Air Act standards.  An additional benefit of Indian Point is its reduction of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.  Global warming creates a more toxic smog and poison runoff from impervious surfaces.  AAEA is promoting a campaign to combine nuclear power with electric and hybrid vehicles as a methodology for aggressively mitigating smog. 

Air Pollution Causes Serious Adverse Health Effects

            In 1999, coal-fired power plants in the United States emitted into the environment 11.3 million tons of sulfur dioxide (“SO2”), a criteria air pollutant that is correlated to asthma and impaired lung functions, 6.5 million tons of nitrogen oxides (“NOx”) which, when combined with ozone, volatile organic chemicals and sunlight, forms smog, a lung irritant linked to asthma, and 1.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide (“CO2”), yet another contributor to increased smog levels.[4]  This equates to approximately 60% of all SO2 emissions, 25% of all NOx emissions, and 32% of all CO2 emissions nationwide.[5]

            These and other airborne pollutants emitted by fossil-fuel power stations may have a direct and significant effect on human health.  In a study by Abt Associates, one of the largest for-profit government and business research consulting firms in the world, it was found that over 30,000 deaths each year are attributable to air pollution from U.S. power plants.[6]  Another study found that air pollution from power plants was a contributing factor to higher infant mortality rates and higher incidences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (“SIDS”).[7]  Research has further shown that pollutants from fossil-fuel power plants form tiny acidic particles (called fine particulate matter) that are linked to diseases of both the respiratory and cardiovascular systems.[8]  Not surprisingly, air pollution has been characterized as one of the largest threats to public health.[9] 

Negative Health Effects of Air Pollution Are Borne Disproportionately by Blacks

            Sadly, these serious health effects disproportionately fall on the shoulders of low-income and minority communities, including African American communities.  For instance, the percentage of African Americans and Hispanics living in areas that do not meet national standards for air quality is considerably higher than that of whites.[10]    Correspondingly, respiratory ailments affect African Americans at rates significantly higher than whites.  Asthma attacks, for example, send African Americans to the emergency room at three times the rate of whites (174.3 visits per 10,000 people for African Americans versus 59.4 visits per 10,000 people for whites), and African Americans are hospitalized for asthma at more than three times the rate of whites (35.6 admissions per 10,000 people for African Americans versus 10.6 admissions for every 10,000 people for whites).[11]  Similarly, the death rate from asthma for African Americans is almost three times that of whites (38.7 deaths per million versus 14.2 deaths per million).[12]

New York’s Minorities Pay the Price for Air Pollution

            New York is no exception to this national crisis.  In New York City, it is estimated that there are 2,290 deaths, 1,580 hospitalizations, 546 asthma-related emergency room visits, 1,490 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 46,200 asthma attacks yearly attributable to power plant pollution.[13]  The New York City area has also been ranked as one of the top five U.S. metropolitan areas for particulate air pollution.[14]  And again, these adverse effects disproportionately affect minority communities.  In one study, nonwhites in New York City were found to be hospitalized twice as many times as whites on days when ozone levels were high.[15]  Another study found that, of the 23 counties in New York State that fail to meet Federal air pollution standards, 37.7% of them are populated by people of color.[16]

That African Americans and other minorities are disproportionately affected by air pollution in New York is not surprising when considering the fact that the majority of air-polluting power plants in the New York metropolitan area are located in African American and other minority communities.  Based on figures from the 2000 U.S. Census, only 12.3% of New York State is identified as being African American, and  29.4% of the total population is classified as a minority.  However, in communities that are predominantly minority, such as Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, there are a disproportionate number of power plants emitting criteria air pollutants.  In the Bronx, which is 35.6% African American and 88% minority, there are two power plants, Harlem River Yards and Hell’s Gate.  In Brooklyn, which is 36.4% African American and 64.2% minority, there are seven power plants, the 23rd and 3rd Plant, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Gowanus, Hudson Ave., Narrows, the North First St. Plant, and Warbasse Cogen.  In Queens, which is 20% African American and 63.2% minority, there are five power plants, Astoria, Far Rockaway, JFK Cogeneration, Ravenswood, and the Vernon Blvd. Plant.  Queens is also ranked among the worst 10% of U.S. Counties in terms of its exposure to criteria air pollutants.[17]  In the Air Quality in Queens County Report, it is stated that:

The concentration of generating capacity in Northwest Queens is exceptionally high for such a densely populated area.  In addition, this community includes a high percentage of low-income people and persons of color.  These demographics suggest that “environmental justice” concepts and policies should be taken into account when considering options for addressing air quality in Queens and in considering the siting of further sources of air pollution.

 The steam generating units in Queens are responsible for a large percent of the NOx, SO2, and CO2 emitted in Queens.

In total, there are 24 power plants in the New York metropolitan area, only a handful of which are in areas where minorities do not comprise the majority of the population.  One of these is the Indian Point power generating facility.[18]

Increasing Generation at Facilities Near Indian Point Will Increase Air Pollution in the Communities Where These Facilities Are Based

            An August 2002 study by the TRC Environmental Group entitled, Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 2, LLC and Entergy Nuclear Indian Point 3, LLC Emissions Avoidance Study (the “TRC Report”), found that, if Indian Point is brought offline, the air quality in New York will decrease dramatically.  For instance, if the gap created by Indian Point’s closure were to be filled by the power plants located in New York City, almost all of which are in predominantly minority communities, CO2 plant emissions would increase by 101% (or 12,494,172 tons), SO2 plant emissions would increase by 106% (or 8,020 tons), and NOx plant emissions would increase by 105% (or 16,107 tons).  Even if replacement electricity were spread out more broadly, to include all of the Hudson Valley and New York City plants, CO2 plant emissions would still increase by 57% (to 13,686,648 tons), SO2 plant emissions would increase by 62% (to 35,961 tons), and NOx emissions would increase by 57% (to 20,258 tons). 

            As the level of air pollution increases, so do the incidences of death and respiratory and cardiovascular ailments.  For instance, in the National Morbidity and Mortality Air Pollution Study (“NMMAPS”), a team of investigators from Johns Hopkins University and the Harvard School of Public Health found, among other things, strong evidence linking daily increases in particle pollution to increases in death in the largest U.S. cities.[19]  Links have also been found between fine particle levels and increased hospital admissions for asthma, cardiovascular disease, pneumonia, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.[20]  Stated bluntly in the Air Quality in Queens County Report, “Epidemiological studies tell us that on days when air pollution levels are high, more people get sick or die.” 

            Based on the above data and studies, it is clear that if Indian Point 2 and 3 were to be brought offline, forced to close, or if their production were limited, the void in electricity production would be filled by power plants located in minority communities, with a corresponding increase in the rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and even infant mortality in these communities.

Conclusion

            The Indian Point facilities, located in the affluent and predominantly white Westchester County, have a combined generating capacity of approximately 1910 MW.  The facilities provide approximately 20-30% of the electricity for New York City and its northern suburbs. 

            Because nuclear power is emission-free and has a demonstrated safety record, AAEA promotes the use of nuclear power.  AAEA specifically supports the Indian Point 2 and 3 nuclear power facilities because these facilities provide significant electrical capacity to the State of New York with minimal human, animal, air, water, and land impacts.



[1]        See Death, Disease & Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants, at 24, Clean Air Task Force (October 2000). 

[2]        See New York’s Dirty Power Plants, Clear the Air – the National Campaign Against Dirty Power.

[3]        See Martha H. Keating, Air Injustice, at 4 (October 2002).

[4]        See Rachel H. Cease, Adverse Health Impacts of Grandfathered Power Plants and the Clean Air Act: Time to Teach Old Power Plants New Technology, 17 J. Nat. Resources & Envtl. L. 157, 158 (2002-2003); Martha H. Keating, Air Injustice, at 4 (October 2002) (attached hereto as Exhibit B).

[5]        17 J. Nat. Resources & Envtl. L. at 158.

[6]        Id. at 159.

[7]        See Martha H. Keating, Air Injustice, at 3 (October 2002).

[8]        See id. at 4.  See also Air Quality in Queens County: Opportunities for Cleaning Up the Air in Queens County and Neighboring Regions, at S-6, Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. (May 2003) (“Air Quality in Queens County”) (“Epidemiological studies tell us that on days when air pollution levels are high, more people get sick or die.”) (available at http://www.synapse-energy.com/Downloads/Synapse-report-queens-air-quality-exec-summary-05-29-2003.pdf); Children at Risk: How Pollution from Power Plants Threatens the Health of America’s Children, at 2, Clean Air Task Force (May 2002) (“Power plant emissions and their byproducts form particulate matter, ozone smog and air toxics.  These pollutants are associated with respiratory hospitalizations, lost school days due to asthma attacks, low birth weight, stunted lung growth and tragically, even infant death.”) (available at http://cta.policy.net/fact/children/).

[9]        Allison L. Russell, Urban Pollutants: A Review and Annotated Bibliography, at 3, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance 2000 (available at http://www.nyceja.org/pdf/Urban.pdf).

[10]       See id.

[11]       Id.

[12]       Id.

[13]       See Death, Disease & Dirty Power: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants, at 24, Clean Air Task Force (October 2000) (“Death, Disease & Dirty Power”) (Exhibit C) (available at http://cta.policy.net/fact/mortality/mortalitylowres.pdf).

[14]       See New York’s Dirty Power Plants, Clear the Air – the National Campaign Against Dirty Power (available at http://cta.policy.net/relatives/17841.pdf).  The Air Quality in Queens County Report states that “New York City … [is] burdened with significant air quality problems” and “[t]he US EPA has determined that the NY metropolitan area … is in ‘severe nonattainment’ for ozone.”  Id. at S-5.

[15]       See Martha H. Keating, Air Injustice, at 4 (October 2002).

[16]       See Clear the Air: People of Color in Non-Attainment Counties (available at http://cta.policy.net/fact/injustice/injustice_non_attainment.pdf).

[17]       See Air Quality in Queens County, at S-5.

[18]       All population data compiled from the 2000 U.S. Census.

[19]       Cited in Death Disease & Dirty Power, at 14.

[20]       Id.