Four Years Later: Big Steps Toward Environmental Justice in the Mississippi Delta

by Sivan Sherriffe

August 13, 2014

Dawn Bickett

You may not have heard of the Kemper County Coal Plant, but what it releases in the air impacts more than 186,000 customers and residents across the Mississippi Delta. The coal plant is located in Kemper County, Mississippi, a small county with over 10,300 residents. Many of the residents are of low socioeconomic status and in turn, are gravely affected by the coal plants health risks and financial impact.   [caption id="attachment_29025" align="aligncenter" width="404"]Kemper Coal Plant Photo credit of NAACP[/caption] Last week, the Sierra Club and Mississippi Powers Kemper County Coal Plant reached a landmark legal decision for the plant to make efforts in becoming more energy efficient. Kemper Plant has agreed to scale back its plans from expanding coal-fired plant production across the Delta region, as well as encouraging residents to become more energy-efficient. Initiatives of the settlement include: 1. Investing $15 million in energy efficiency programs for affected communities. The investment will provide low-income residents with more cost- and energy-efficient appliances. It will also help schools and charities become more energy-efficient. 2. Scaling back on coal and power plant production across the region to reduce air and water pollution. Two major power plants in the area have agreed to stop burning coal over the next 20 months. This will essentially improve the quality of life for residents by reducing the number of asthma attacks and hospital visits, as well as assisting low-income residents to make their homes more efficient. 3. Making solar energy more affordable for homeowners. Residents will be able to install solar power in their homes. 4. Strengthening flood protections at water retention ponds at coal mines near the plant. The ponds must be able to prevent toxic pollution from contaminating from groundwater and waterways. 5. Minimizing mining operation impacts on local traffic for residents. 6. Providing $2 million to protect habitat for the Mississippi gopher frog, which is critically endangered. The Sierra Club will work toward naming the preserve after its leader Linda St. Martin, who recently passed away. [caption id="attachment_29027" align="aligncenter" width="360"]Kemper Coal Plant Photo credit of NAACP[/caption] After a long four-year battle, this settlement is an important step toward environmental justice. Gulfport NAACP Member and Chair of the National Board Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, Kathy Egland, says: This victory is important not only for those of us living within a 30 miles radius of Plant Watson, but for the people of Mississippi; and in the aggregate, ultimately has implications for our entire global ecosystem. We applaud the critical role of Sierra Club in finalizing negotiations of an agreement that adheres to so many of our demands."
  Sources: Mississippis Poor Seniors and the Kemper Power Plant:  

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