April 5, 2002 at 7:52 PM EST - Updated July 28 at 4:00 PM
AKRON, Ohio (AP) - Six of the state's coal-burning power plants are increasing their emissions, according to a report.
But they are doing it legally.
Margaux Shields of the Ohio Public Interest Research Group said the plants have "dramatically increased their emissions, putting local Ohio communities at risk." The report comes from Clear the Air, a national environmental group based in Washington, D.C.
The plants' pollution increases are perfectly legal, said Pat Hemlepp, spokesman for Columbus-based American Electric Power Co., which owns two of the plants.
Pollution reductions at some big plants in Ohio allow utilities to increase pollution at smaller, older plants under federal cap-and-trade programs for sulfur dioxide. A similar system is in the works for nitrogen oxide.
Hemlepp said nationally, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide levels are dropping -- proof that the federal system is working.
In 2000, Ohio was No. 1 in the country for emissions of both pollutants. From 1995 to 2000, the sulfur dioxide emissions grew by 3,529 tons to nearly 1.2 million tons. At the same time, nitrogen oxide emissions dropped by 155,132 tons to 373,140 tons.
"It's not getting worse," Hemlepp said of power-plant pollution. He called Thursday's report "bogus."
According to the report, the Ohio plants showing the sharpest increases in sulfur dioxide were:
AEP's Muskingum River plant in Morgan County, ranking third in the country.
Miami Fort in Hamilton County, ranking fourth. It is owned by Cinergy Corp. of Cincinnati.
Kyger Creek in Gallia County, ranking fifth. It is owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp.
Cinergy's Beckjord plant in Clermont County, ranking eighth.
Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.'s Sammis plant in Jefferson County, ranking 12th.
AEP's Conesville plant in Coshocton County, ranking 14th.
Ohio utilities were not alone in increasing sulfur dioxide pollution, according to the report.
The report said 60 percent of the country's 500 most polluting power plants increased their emissions of sulfur dioxide, which contributes to acid rain and is linked to health problems.
"Instead of reducing their emissions, plants like the Muskingum River plant have dramatically increased smog and soot pollution output," said Dr. Eric Fitch, director of the environmental science program at Marietta College. "This puts residents in towns like Marietta at unacceptable risk."
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)