Ten Dirty Things About Big King Coal


Mountain top removal vista. Image credit:Reverse Energy

We like the buzz we've been hearing since President Obama took office— that we can create jobs and curb climate change by turning toward clean-energy solutions. Any way you look at it, that means moving away from coal, which is dirty from beginning to end of its life cycle, and threatens our health and our environment. King Coal must clean up its old, dirty plants—no exemptions, no bailouts, and no special treatment.

Here are ten quick things you should know about coal. Read 'em, and then sign our petition.1. Boycott the Volunteer State?!
Big Coal is urging a boycott of travel to Tennessee because Sen. Lamar Alexander supports a federal ban on mountain-top removal mining, a type of mining where the tops of mountains are blown apart and the dirt dumped into rivers and valleys in order to get to the coal underground.) That means...it's time to visit Tennessee!

Check out our Tennessee Rocks group on Climate Crossroads and see "Ten Reasons to Visit the Great State of Tennessee."

2. "Coal Country," the movie the coal industry doesn't want you to see.
It explores whether mining and processing coal is essential to providing good jobs and shows how it is destroying the land, water and air in many communities. There was a dust-up leading up to its premiere in West Virginia where pro-coal folks were promising to picket and interrupt the event. The theater venue had to be changed, but the premiere still happened, despite some yelling.

3. Coal destroys people to power homes.
Meet the people whose lives are destroyed by mountain and read their compelling stories. (A video clip on that page shows you just what mountaintop-removal mining looks like, too.)

4. The very end of the dirty coal cycle: coal ash (pdf file).
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released the list of 44 high-hazard coal ash sites. The sites had previously been kept confidential because the Department of Homeland Security considered them a "national security risk." Of course, the info was released only after we and a few other environmental groups filed a Freedom of Information Act request to have these sites revealed.

Check out our map of these sites, which includes details about the poverty levels of those living nearby.

5. The anti-coal movement is gaining ground.
Two weeks ago we documented the 100th coal plant that was stopped or abandoned.
This movement has kept well over 400 million tons of harmful global warming pollution out of the air, making significant progress in the fight against climate change. Stopping 100 new coal plants has also kept thousands of tons of asthma-causing soot and smog pollution, as well as toxins like mercury, out of our air and water. This milestone also marks a significant shift in the way Americans are looking at our energy choices.

6. Backing away from coal. Cities, states, businesses, and electric utilities are all moving away from the polluting coal-power of the past.
For instance, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced recently that the city would eliminate the use of coal by 2020 -- replacing the 40% of its power currently generated by coal with renewable energy.

7. The next 100 coal plants.
The Sierra Club just helped launch a new campaign with a coalition of groups, all focusing on the company with the most number of planned coal plants right now: Blackstone. They've got three planned in the U.S. Stay tuned to the campaign at NoBlackstoneCoal.

8. Did someone say selenium?
Some mountaintop-removal mining sites have the problem of selenium, a substance that in large quantities can deform aquatic life. Anglers are already seeing signs of selenium poisoning in their nearby water bodies in some areas. Learn more in our selenium fact sheet. (PDF)

9. Unlike the coal industry would have you believe, we are not the "Saudi
Arabia of coal."

A June 8, 2009, article in the Wall Street Journal ("U.S. Foresees a Thinner Cushion of Coal," by Rebecca Smith) reported on a recent U.S. Geological Survey that says the opposite. From the article:

Last year, the U.S. Geological Survey completed an extensive analysis of Wyoming's Gillette coal field, the nation's largest and most productive, and determined that less than 6% of the coal in its biggest beds could be mined profitably, even at prices higher than today's. "We really can't say we're the Saudi Arabia of coal anymore," says Brenda Pierce, head of the USGS team that conducted the study.

10. The threat of spills.
Remember the devastating TVA coal ash spill in
Harriman, Tenn., last December? It's still being cleaned up, and many folks
feel like they've been left out in the cold. Maybe that's because they
have. Check out this investigation from CNN.

The Obama Administration has shown a strong commitment to economic prosperity through cleaner energy, and that means new regulations to force dirty coal plants and oil refineries to clean up their act to create less pollution and more clean energy jobs. But oil and coal companies are doing everything they can to fight these new rules and avoid being held accountable for their polluting ways.

Tell your Senators to urge President Obama to create the rules that will regulate coal ash, mercury, mining, soot, smog, and carbon pollution as quickly as possible.

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