Don't breathe the air

Inside America’s “superpolluters” that release the most toxic air and greenhouse gases

Twenty-two facilities that emit toxic air and greenhouse gases appear in the top third of polluters for both kinds of emissions, according to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, the Weather Channel, and USA Today. Four of the twenty-two, accounting for millions of pounds of toxic releases, surround Evansville, Indiana, a mid-sized city of just over 117,000 in the southwest corner of the state, near the borders of Illinois and Kentucky.

The effects of being near so many facilities, called “superpolluters,” have had disastrous results on public health in Evansville and the surrounding area. The area by itself is responsible for a quarter of Indiana’s sky-high emissions reporting, with fine particles higher than 90 percent of all U.S. counties, and coal ash is contaminating local water sources.

Indiana state government, run by Governor Mike Pence, who once called global warming a “myth” on his congressional campaign webpage, has responded to the public health crisis by denying it exists. Indiana is one of 27 states suing the federal government over the E.P.A.’s Clean Power Plan, and the spokesperson for its Department of Health responded to questions from the Center for Public Integrity by claiming it has no jurisdiction over “outdoor air quality.” Reporters were sent to the Department of Environmental Management—which said it had no public health specialists on staff.