IEC comments on new EPA coal plant pollution rules

posted on Thursday, April 25, 2024 in Energy News

For those of us who do not live close to places where coal is burned, hauled through our communities, and stored next to our waterways, it is easy to ignore that coal is a dangerous substance – toxic to human health and our environment. 

IEC is still analyzing the specifics of the EPA rules issued today and their impact on Iowans. We can, however, say without hesitation that adequate regulation of coal plant pollution is long overdue.  For the Iowans who have suffered for decades from the impacts of toxic pollution in their communities, like those in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Ottumwa, and more, action cannot come soon enough.  

Residents of Woodbury County, home of two massive coal plants owned and operated by MidAmerican Energy, has the highest asthma rates in the state. Parents in Muscatine County have contended for decades with the air they breathe containing toxic pollution that hurts their kids. Multiple rivers, lakes, and streams in Iowa are contaminated with mercury, which comes exclusively from burning coal for power.

In Pottawatomie County, where MidAmerican’s Walter Scott coal plant is located, arsenic levels 34 times the legal limit have been found in groundwater testing.  

Coal plants leave arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals in our surface- and groundwater, and in the fish we eat. This contamination impacts fetal development in pregnant moms and has a role in dementia and developmental delays in children. Particulate matter spewed from smokestacks is known to worsen asthma and cause higher asthma rates along with increasing the risks associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart disease.  

Pollution from coal plants in Iowa is not felt equally. We know that people who are Black, brown, or low-income experience disproportionate impacts from this pollution because of where coal plants are located and how waste is stored. These communities surrounding coal plants deserve clean air like the rest of us and we no longer have to produce energy this way. Clean renewable energy, energy efficiency, battery storage, and investments in our transmission grid can provide the reliable and affordable energy that our state needs without sacrificing the health of Iowa’s most vulnerable communities. 

To emphasize the importance of EPA’s announced actions and their impact on Iowans, IEC and our partners will be releasing a report on World Asthma Day – May 7th – outlining how coal plant pollution has impacted the health of people in northwest Iowa. To get updates or registration information when it becomes available, contact us at

Coal is the energy source of the past and we commend EPA for recognizing its harmful impact on the health of Iowans. IEC is committed to helping our state make an equitable transition to the cheaper, more reliable, and cleaner energy source of the future – renewable energy.  

  1. carbon pollution
  2. climate change
  3. coal
  4. environmental justice
  5. public health