"The Capitol Climate Action comes not a moment too soon. For more than thirty years, scientists, environmentalists and people from all walks of life have urged our leaders to take action to stop global warming; and that action has yet to come," said Dr. James Hansen, one of the world's leading climate scientists. Dr. Hansen will join the protest. "Coal is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country and that must change. The world is waiting for the Obama administration and Congress to lead the way forward on this defining issue of our time. They need to start by getting coal out of Congress."
The Capitol Power Plant, which is owned by Congress and sits just blocks from the American seat of power, burns coal to heat and cool numerous buildings on Capitol Hill. The facility no longer generates electricity but its reliance on coal - the country's biggest source of global warming pollution and a documented health hazard - has made it the focus of political controversy and a powerful symbol of coal's impact on the environment and public health.
"This demonstration marks the beginning of a sustained effort to draw a line in the sand against this dirty and dangerous fuel," said Matt Leonard of Greenpeace, which is helping to organize the protest. "Our leaders cannot promise us a healthy and prosperous future as long as coal is polluting our soil, water and atmosphere."
"We can no longer wait for the changes we know we can, and must, make today," continued Rebecca Tarbotton of Rainforest Action Network (RAN), a lead sponsor of the action. "We've got to take the slogan 'yes we can' seriously. With a new administration and a new Congress, we have a window of opportunity to build a clean energy economy that will protect the health of our families, our climate and our future."
The diversity of groups involved in the action reflects the number of people affected by global warming. Of all the fossil fuels, coal is the single biggest contributor to global warming. Burning coal cuts short at least 24,000 lives in the U.S. annually, inflicts catastrophic damage to the landscape and water supplies, and jeopardizes the lives of coal miners. Furthermore, the December coal ash spill in Tennessee makes it clear that there is no adequate means of safely storing coal combustion waste.
"As the impacts of global warming accelerate, thousands of people from all walks of life will join together in early March," said Mike Tidwell of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN). "We will be participating in the time-honored American tradition of peaceful resistance, this time in the name of stopping the great moral wrong of climate change."
In response to public pressure, the House of Representatives converted half of the plant's fuel to cleaner natural gas. But attempts to remove coal from the fuel mix entirely have been blocked by powerful coal-state Senators Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
A recent University of Massachusetts study found investing in clean energy projects like wind power and mass transit creates three to four times more jobs than the same expenditure on the coal industry. The wind power sector has grown to employ more Americans than coal mining as demand for clean energy has jumped over the past decade.
For a list of sponsors and more information about the Capitol Climate Action, visit www.capitolclimateaction.org
CONTACTS: Mike Crocker, Greenpeace USA Media Officer, 202-319-2471; Nell Greenberg, Communications Manager, Rainforest Action Network, 510-847-9777; Anne Havemann, Communications Director, CCAN, 240-396-2022
Notes: References: “Reliance on Coal Sullies ‘Green the Capitol’ Effort.” Washington Post. April 21, 2007 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/20/AR2007042002128.html “Dirty Air Dirty: Mortality and Health Damage Due to Pollution from Power Plants.” A Clean Air Task Force Report http://www.catf.us/publications/reports/Dirty_Air_Dirty_Power.pdf “Wind Jobs Outstrip the Coal Industry.” CNNMoney.com. http://greenwombat.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2009/01/28/wind-jobs-outstrip-the-coal-industry/