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Will Deadly Air Pollution Settle in Virginia?

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23 May 2011, 12:16 PM
New report on coal plant pollution underscores national problem

Jamestown, VA is a fixture of American history. Founded more than 400 years ago, it was the first permanent English settlement in what became the United States. Today, not far from there, The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative is looking to make history of a different kind. It wants to build what would be the largest coal-fired power plant in all of Virginia. But if built, something new will settle in the region: a large cloud of harmful air pollution.

And indeed, a report released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation shows that if this chapter of history is written, it will have a profound and negative impact on the region's future. Pollution from the plant will lead to dozens of deaths, hundreds of asthma attacks and more than $200 million in regional health care costs every year. Moreover, the Chesapeake Bay, a suffering icon of the eastern seaboard, would be further polluted with mercury as well as nitrogen oxides.

The story in Virginia told by the CBF is a microcosm of the rest of the country, where coal plant pollution is claiming lives, polluting waters and costing the public billions of dollars. The Environmental Protection Agency is holding its first public hearings tomorrow, in Philadelphia and Chicago, on a recent proposal to cut toxic air pollution from the nation's coal-fired power plants.

The EPA estimates that reducing toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants will prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths every year, as well as 11,000 heart attacks and 120,000 cases of aggravated asthma. If you happen to live in Chicago, Philadelphia, or Atlanta—where a hearing will take place on Thursday—please consider attending and making your voice heard. If you can't make it, be sure to send a public comment to the EPA in support of strong reductions in the life-taking pollution that coal plants emit.

Particularly impactful is a story in the CBF report about Amy Paulson, a mother and soccer coach in Chesapeake, VA whose 8-year old son has asthma. Paulson is understandably concerned about the possibility of a 1,500 MW coal-fired power plant popping up on the horizon, which would in all likelihood further impact her son's health. Her story fits right in with many of the Clean Air Ambassadors—like Alex Allred, Marcia Owens and Rachael Belz—who live with air pollution and its impacts to our health.

Check out the CBF report and make sure to send the EPA a note saying that you support strong public health protections against coal-fired power plant pollution.

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