Pennsylvania State
In 2009, Pittsburgh was named the worst city in the country for fine particle pollution. By 2012, Pittsburgh had 'improved' to the sixth worst state in the nation.

Each year, Pennsylvania reports 2,200 premature deaths from power-plant pollution; 10,000 residents visit hospital emergency rooms and 370,000 suffer from smog-related asthma attacks.

Coal plants add significantly to pollution levels, says the nonprofit group, Energy Conservation Council. Now there's a major effort in Pennsylvania to retire aging coal plants.

Pennsylvania Energy

But here's the rub: Coal plants can't be retired until new sources of energy come onstream to carry the load.

Since late 2011, 16,000 megawatts of coal-generated electricity have been removed from active duty, and another 6,020 are scheduled to be retired by 2018.

Pennsylvanians are less likely to use electricity to heat their homes than elsewhere in the country, but their use of electricity overall is growing.

Coal-fired plants have traditionally been less costly to operate, so there was a natural incentive for consumers to prefer coal-generated electricity. Now the state is making an effort to make the electricity market a little more competitive.

According to state law, Pennsylvania residents are now allowed to choose their electric utility company. While they'll still pay a charge to the company whose power lines run down their street, Penn residents can now decide which company's power is delivered through those lines.

Some consumers may shop by price, buying from the cheapest power supplier. Others may prefer to do business with a 'clean' energy company.

Other factors come into the equation. Some utility companies offer special introductory pricing; some offer senior discounts. In some cases, there are penalties for consumers who quit before their contract expires.

Nuclear power is another option. Pennsylvania is a major generator of nuclear power, with five plants scattered across the state.

Nuclear proponents like to point out that even Hurricane Sandy didn't stop the power from flowing. Despite winds greater than 50 MPH, three nuclear power plants kept producing through the storm.

And just to make sure, the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) sent inspectors to check on operations during the storm.

(Pennsylvania also allows consumers to choose their supplier of natural gas-- which is more common than choosing an electric power supplier.)


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