In the media, coal is often portrayed at its source and we hear mostly about the ill effects of coal on mining communities. While the impacts of coal mining on these places is deeply destructive, the toxic pollution that poisons the air and water during the generating stage of coal’s life cycle, in the towns and communities where coal is burned across the country, can be just as devastating. Just this year, Physicians for Social Responsibility released a report which ranked Florida 3rd of the states in the nation with the most polluted air, largely due to coal plant pollution.

Here in the Tampa Bay, there is a coal plant right in our backyard whose pollution affects everyone who calls the Bay home. The Big Bend coal plant in Apollo Beach spews pollution ranging from mercury to arsenic into our air and water. It is responsible for 240 asthma attacks, 23 heart attacks, and 17 deaths every year. 17 deaths every year - all because this plant continues to burn dirty, outdated coal. Shockingly, this coal plant is located just a stone’s throw away from Apollo Beach Elementary School, and numerous residential areas where children and their families are exposed to the toxic byproducts of this coal burning plant every single day.

Across the country, old, dirty coal plants are shutting down in favor of cleaner sources of energy. Here in Florida, we are blessed with the amazing natural resource that is our average of 300 sunny days per year. We all know that this gives us our gorgeous weather and brings tourists to our beaches and money to our local economy. The glorious sunlight that makes this such a great place to live and visit also has the potential to create the energy we need to sustain our way of life. It can also stop our communities from being held hostage by toxic, polluting coal plants like Big Bend Station and create the jobs we need to revive our state’s economy. As dire as the impacts of this plant are, there are solutions available. We have to demand them.

This month, people from around the Tampa Bay are coming together to learn about the effects of coal on communities and are standing up to demand the closure of Big Bend and a switch to clean, renewable energy in Florida. We are kicking off our campaign with a special screening of “Burning the Future” which documents the effects of the coal industry on the nation. To RSVP to this event, click here. People from groups around the Bay and residents who are concerned about the effects of dirty coal on their communities will come together to launch a campaign to change Florida’s energy future.