Two ways to help stop coal from devastating our communities
by Mike Gaworecki
August 9, 2010
It’s difficult to overstate the devastating impact that coal has on our world. Our reliance on coal for electricity has driven our climate system close to a catastrophic tipping point and has begun changing the very chemical makeup of our oceans. Thousands of miners across the globe face sickening and dangerous work conditions, and in Appalachia, mountaintop removal mining has devastated many communities. On top of these and myriad other costs of coal, the industry spends millions to confuse the public about the real consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels, and makes massive campaign contributions to make sure Congress doesn’t act.
But a pair of proposed rules from the Environmental Protection Agency could turn into the beginning of a new era of accountability for King Coal. Air pollution and coal ash, two of the most direct threats from burning coal for energy, are both facing new regulations. The industry is fighting tooth and nail to keep the EPA from acting, but with your help we can turn the tide and start protecting our communities.
The EPA is currently accepting comments from the public on both of these issues. Click the links below to send your comments directly to the EPA.
Coal plants are responsible for 66 percent of SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions and 19 percent of NOx (smog-forming nitrogen oxides) in the US. These are highly hazardous airborne pollutants, associated with respiratory disease and even premature death.
A new rule from the EPA, the Clean Air Transport Rule, would reduce SO2 emissions by 71 percent and NOx emissions by 52 percent by the year 2014. In the process, up to 36,000 lives would be saved — every single year. Also, as the rule has been proposed, it would save Americans $290 billion in health care costs every year, more than 100 times what the regulation would cost.
Sign our petition and tell the EPA to pass the Clean Air Transport Rule.
Every large coal plant in our country produces about 240,000 tons of toxic ash and sludge per year. It is the second largest waste stream in the country, and it contains 44 tons of mercury, 4,601 tons of arsenic, 970 tons of beryllium, 496 tons of cadmium, 6,275 tons of chromium, 6,533 tons of nickel, and 1,305 tons of selenium. The waste is usually stored in huge “ponds,” with toxins leaking into the groundwater and communities downhill wondering whether the dam will break.
Despite this incredible threat to the public health and welfare, coal ash dumps are not yet subject to federal regulation. However, a new proposal from EPA could start regulating coal ash as the hazardous waste that it is.