A Big Drop

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in the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes West Virginia while bordering Ohio, the Environmental Protection Agency says hazardous air pollutant emissions took a drop of nearly 14% in the last reporting year, 2011.

That's a decrease of 32.5 million tons of pollutant releases in one year. an environmental science professor at Marietta College says the declines are significant, especially for the valley, often labeled one of the worst for such releases.

"They've either become more efficient and are producing less of the toxins," says Dr. Eric Fitch, "they've installed better environmental control equipment to capture the material before it is released into the environment, or they're simply running more efficiently."

Fitch adds, however, that the still slow economy might also be a factor, with plants not running at full capacity. A third factor, one which factors into the shutdown of several long-time coal-fired power plants, is the transition in fuels from coal to natural gas.

"Natural gas burns much more cleanly in terms of pollutants than does coal. And it only produces a fourth of the greenhouse emissions in terms of a comparable energy production for coal."

While a reduction in the use of coal likely will result in a loss of jobs in West Virginia and eastern Ohio coal mines, It's hoped the continued use of natural gas will likewise result in employment increases, especially in our area where drilling is taking place.

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