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Tall Stacks Versus Scrubbers: $3.5-Million Publicity Campaign Fails to Discredit Emission Reduction Technology

January 1975

Citation: 5 ELR 10009

Issue: 1

The latest skirmish in the battle for clean air centers around a recently developed device known as the flue gas desulphurization system or "stack gas scrubber." This emission control device utilizes a process by which flue gases are passed through a water suspension, or slurry, of lime or limestone that chemically removes the toxic sulphur oxides from the smoke before it is released into the atmosphere. Since the principal sources of sulphur oxide emissions throughout the nation are coal-fired electric power plants, the scrubbers controversy has focused on whether these plants should be required to install the devices.

This dispute, unlike most other environmental controversies at the federal level, has not been limited to the usual administrative battlegrounds of hearing rooms, public comment within the rule-making process, and litigation. Donald C. Cook, feisty head of the American Electric Power Company, the nation's largest privately owned utility company, added a new twist by mounting a $3.5-million campaign of full-page advertisements in major newspapers and national news magazines vigorously attacking both the efficacy of scrubbers and the advisability of requiring their use by coal-fired power plants.1 The ads have been so strident—and sometimes misleading—as to draw strong public protests from both Russell Peterson, Chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, and John Sawhill, at the time, head of the Federal Energy Administration.

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