Sen. Mary Landrieu is a Democrat but she knows quite well what her base is. You don’t get elected from either party in Louisiana if you piss off the oil and gas interests that control that state, which is why she’s holding a press conference to protest the EPA’s new rules on power plant emissions at one of the nation’s dirtiest coal plants.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) is scheduled to hold an event at her state’s biggest coal-fired power plant on Monday, in a move designed to highlight her opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency’s new proposed limits on carbon pollution from coal plants.
Problem is, the coal plant she’s highlighting — the Big Cajun 2 power plant in New Roads, La. — is one of the nation’s dirtiest, most known for being the subject a high-profile U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit over its toxic emissions. What’s more, the CEO of the company that owns the plant recently said he believes that EPA should be regulating carbon pollution from coal plants, perplexing some as to why she chose to put a spotlight on that plant….
The 1489-megawatt plant is also one of the nation’s dirtiest, according to an Environment America report. Out of more than 600 plants in the U.S., Big Cajun 2 is currently the 20th-largest carbon polluter, the report said. The plant emitted 13.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2011 — the same as the emissions from 2.75 million cars, the report said.Emissions from the Big Cajun 2 have also caused myriad health problems in the communities that surround it. A study commissioned by the nonprofit Clean Air Task Force estimated that fine particle pollution from the Big Cajun 2 plant in 2012 caused 23 deaths, 32 heart attacks, 410 asthma attacks, and 14 cases of chronic bronchitis — health impacts monetized at about $180 million.
Health problems and emissions have likely decreased since 2011, if only because of a $250 million settlement agreement NRG entered into with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012. That settlement ended the DOJ’s 2009 lawsuit accusing Big Cajun 2 of pumping large amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides(NOx) — two powerful greenhouse gases — into the atmosphere in violation of the Clean Air Act. At the time of the settlement, the assistant attorney general for DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division called Big Cajun 2 “the largest source of illegal air pollution in Louisiana.”
But screw the environment. It’s obviously far more important for Landrieu to save her job than it is to save lives.