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Coal smoke and steam vapor pour out of the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant over a nearby residential area on September 11, 2008 in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. The 2460 MW coal-fired  plant in western Pennsylvania is one of the 12 biggest carbon dioxide polluting power plants in the U.S. emitting 17.4 million tons annually.  A local newspaper's investigation revealed Bruce Mansfield has been consistently violating an air permit emission standard called "opacity" since 1998 and is categorized as a "high-priority" violator by the  federal Environmental Protection Agency. Opacity standards are extremely important because they monitor for harmful fine particulate pollution, which contributes to asthma attacks, heart and lung diseases and premature death. The power plant's owners, FirstEnergy Generation Corp., have paid nearly $1 million in related fines. Globally, power generation emits nearly 10 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. The U.S., with over 8,000 power plants out of 50,000 worldwide, accounts for about 25% of that total or 2.8 billion tons Robert Nickelsberg/Getty