Greenpeace has coal in its sights. Last year, the renowned activist group targeted exceptionally old and dirty coal-fired power plants, staging actions in Bridgeport, Connecticut and Chicago, Illinois. I reported on both (and was detained by the police in the process).
Today, they've initiated a similar action at North Carolina's Asheville Power Station, a coal plant owned by the ironically named Progress Energy. Activists scaled the 400 ft smoke stacks and unfurled one of their trademark banners; it read "“Duke Energy: The climate needs real Progress.” That's because Duke Energy, one of the nation's most prominent utility companies, is in the process of merging with Progress—if successful, Duke will become the largest in the country.
Other activists also shut down a coal loader, and unfurled another banner at one of the toxic coal ash ponds that stores the plant's hazardous waste products. The Asheville Power Station makes for a prime target: Not only is it a high-polluting coal-fired power plant, it feeds on coal derived from the deeply unpopular practice of mountaintop removal mining. It's also home to some dangerous coal ash ponds—in other words, it's an ideal poster child for the nastiness of coal.
The Progress Energy coal fired power plant uses mountain top removal coal, the most destructive form of mining, which is decimating the landscape of Appalachia. The plant spews out almost two thousand pounds sulfur dioxide, close to eight hundred pounds of nitrogen oxides, and more than two and a half million tons of carbon dioxide each year.A slideshow of the day's action is up on Flickr. And here's a nice video of the protest:
The plant’s toxic coal ash ponds are designated as ‘high hazard’ by the EPA, meaning they would be likely to kill people should they spill, and recent testing shows elevated levels of heavy metals in groundwater near the ponds."
Since, oh, the Industrial Revolution or so, we've relied on coal, believing it to be a cheap source of energy. But that assumption was way off base: The true cost of coal is massive, and not just to the environment and public health, but to our economy as well. Spotlight-grabbing actions like this will hopefully help spread that direly under-publicized message.