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GREEN TIP: Not only is coal burning responsible for one third of US carbon emissions—the main contributor to climate disruption—but it is also making us sick, leading to as many as 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health costs. Source: Sierra Club
On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, announced the first-ever safeguards limiting carbon pollution from existing U.S. power plants. The EPA proposed the Clean Power Plan that will maintain an affordable, reliable energy system, while cutting pollution and protecting our health and environment.
Here’s a quick lesson in why this is a good move by our President and why coal isn’t our best energy option:
1. Mountain Top Removal is Destroying Mountains
In Appalachia, mining companies literally blow the tops off mountains to reach thin seams of coal. They then dump millions of tons of rubble and toxic waste into the streams and valleys below the mining sites.
Mountaintop removal is a relatively new type of coal mining that began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. Primarily, mountaintop removal is occurring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.
To learn more, visit http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/mtr101/.
2. Health Impacts Of Coal Transport
Coal dust and diesel exhaust from coal trains and cargo ships can cause serious long-term health problems like lung and heart disease and cancer. The wide ranging health dangers of coal dust include exposure to toxic heavy metals like mercury and increased rates of asthma, especially in children. Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) railroad estimates up to 500 pounds of coal can be lost in the form of dust from each rail car en route.
In the United States, more than 40 percent of people live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution. Pollution from coal-fired power plants leads to smog (or ozone), a toxic compound and a dangerous irritant.
This regulation will “reduce pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog that make people sick by over 25 percent.” The EPA projects the reductions will result in avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.
4. Toxic Mercury
Burning coal releases toxic mercury that rains down into rivers and streams. This poison then accumulates in the food chain, eventually making its way into our bodies when we eat contaminated fish.
Pregnant women are the most at risk from the toxic effects of mercury, since the metal is known to concentrate in the fetal brain and can interfere with brain development. Mercury is also known to bind directly to one particular hormone that regulates women’s menstrual cycle and ovulation, interfering with normal signaling pathways. In other words, hormones don’t work so well when they have mercury stuck to them. The metal may also play a role in diabetes, since mercury has been shown to damage cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which is critical for the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.
How to avoid it? For people who still want to eat (sustainable) seafood with lots of healthy fats but without a side of toxic mercury, wild salmon and farmed trout are good choices. Check out the Seafood Watch guide at http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx.
5. Coal Ash Waste
Every year, the nation’s coal plants produce 140 million tons of coal ash pollution, the toxic by-product that is left over after the coal is burned. All that ash has to go somewhere, and it contains high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and selenium.
6. Coal Plant Water Pollution
72 percent of all toxic water pollution in the country comes from coal-fired power plants, making coal plants the number one source of toxic water pollution in the U.S.
7. Carbon Pollution and Climate Disruption
It’s time to act now to stop carbon pollution. Carbon pollution is the main contributor to climate disruption, making extreme extreme weather worse — including more severe floods, widespread wildfires and record drought.
To learn all the details, visit http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards.
My Green Side’s web pick of the week:
EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards at http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards
This site will give you the facts about the EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards including the issues, health effects, the President’s Climate Action Plan and more. It’s full of great information about this important issue.