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Brian Smith's blog

Updating a story from a few weeks ago, proposals for big new transmission lines that would bring coal plant energy from the Appalachia to the Eastern Seaboard are not standing up well when put under the microscope.

The largest of these projects, the Potomac-Appalachian Transmission Highline (PATH), was recently put on ice when the proponents (two coal companies) were challenged to prove they were actually needed.

The single biggest air polluter in the entire state of Washington is the state's one and only coal-fired power plant. The operating permit for the coal plant, which is in Centralia, was recently renewed without needed upgrades to protect the air and the people living nearby who breathe it. Earthjustice attorney Janette Brimmer has been working hard to get the permit pulled back and updated with better pollution standards to clean up the air.

The Tongass National Forest is a sight to behold. From a boat you can watch bears fishing at the mouths of streams and eagles flying through pristine old-growth forests. This natural beauty is what makes America's largest temperate rainforest such a draw. Ecotourism, hunting, and fishing trips, are building a new economy for the people of Southeast Alaska.

Contrary to the bleating of the pollution lobby, Americans believe new jobs would be created by U.S. efforts to address the climate crisis. This according to a new study conducted by AP and Stanford University.

On jobs: 40 percent of Americans say U.S. action to slow global warming would create jobs, while only 23 percent believe such action would reduce jobs.

On the economy: 46 percent said U.S. action to slow global warming would be a boost, as opposed to 27 percent who think it would hurt the economy.

The results of the poll are encouraging.

As the first day of Earthjustice's annual meeting on global warming came to a close, it struck me how seriously the organization now takes the goal of reducing our own carbon footprint.

How can we fight against global warming if we are part of the problem?

This year's annual strategy session included 28 staff people from around the country. A few years ago, this meeting would have required at least a dozen cross-country air flights, hotel stays, and nights away from family.

Almost one year ago, a dyke holding back the 40-acre coal ash pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Fossil Plant broke, releasing more than 500 million gallons of toxic coal ash. The sludge (six feet deep in some places) spread out over 400 acres, damaged 12 homes, and wrecked a train. It was the largest human-induced environmental disaster since Chernobyl.

At this week's U.N. climate talks in Barcelona, a big showdown is brewing between the rich countries and the Global South. The dispute boils down to whether the rich countries ("Annex 1 countries" including the USA) have made strong enough commitments heading into Copenhagen.

Despite the insistence of multi-billion dollar ad campaigns from the coal industry, “clean coal” simply does not exist.

Even when scrubbers are installed to filter air pollution from coal-fired power plants, the mercury, selenium, and other toxic heavy metals released by coal combustion have to go somewhere. Sadly, too much pollution is ending up in America’s rivers and groundwater.

This week, the New York Times’ excellent series "Toxic Waters" takes a look at the dangers of shifting coal pollution from air to water.

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About the Earthjustice Blog

The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders.