Air Pollution: Estimated Emissions from Two New Mexicali Power Plants Are Low, but Health Impacts Are Unknown

GAO-05-823 Published: Aug 12, 2005. Publicly Released: Aug 12, 2005.
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Power plants emit pollutants that have been linked to various negative health effects. In 2003, two new power plants, owned by Sempra Energy and Intergen, began operations 3 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border near Imperial County, California. The county does not meet some federal and state air quality standards and may be further impacted by the emissions from these plants. Although these plants export most of the electricity they produce to the United States, they are not currently required to meet any U.S. or California emissions standards. GAO was asked to determine (1) how emissions from the two plants compare with emissions from recently permitted plants in California and emissions from sources in Imperial County, and what emissions standards they would be subject to if they were located in Imperial County; (2) the health impacts of emissions from the plants on Imperial County residents; and (3) options available to U.S. policymakers to ensure that emissions from these plants do not adversely affect the health of Imperial County residents. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOE disagreed with our characterization of the limitations of their assessment of the health impact of pollution from the Sempra and Intergen power plants. We believe we have portrayed the limitations of this assessment accurately.

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