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That coal- and oil-fired power plants are big air polluters is beyond question—they emit hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous air pollution (mercury, lead, acid gases, e.g.), far more than any other industrial polluter. And yet, many in Congress question whether we should do anything about this major threat to public health. The debate took center stage yesterday in a subcommittee hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, announced a program, Climate and Clean Air Coalition, today to reduce methane, soot and other pollutants. The United States is jumpstarting the program by contributing $12 million over the next two years.

"By focusing on these pollutants, how to reduce them and, where possible, to use them for energy, people will see results," Clinton said at a news conference today in Washington D.C.

Each time a new coal export terminal is proposed at a Pacific Northwest port, industry promises to take appropriate measures to protect the surrounding environment and community from the terminal’s inherent pollution. The harmful effects of coal dust blowing into communities from enormous coal piles and trains carrying coal in open boxcars while spewing coal dust will be mitigated, terminal investors tell the public.

While much has been made of the $535 million loan guarantee made to the failed Solyndra Corporation in 2009 to encourage alternative energy, you may have missed the court decision this week, halting expansion plans for a Kansas coal plant facing similar problems.

The ruling underscores how deadbeat coal plants can be even more costly for taxpayers.

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