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A bipartisan bill is coming up for a vote in the Tennessee state legislature tomorrow (Feb. 29) that would ban surface mining and mountaintop removal mining at altitudes above 2,000 feet in the state.

This legislation would ensure that the most scenic vistas are protected for residents and visitors instead of being razed.

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.

When an environmental organization tells you the age of coal is over, it’s fair to dismiss that as mere wishful thinking.

But when an international economic magazine says the same thing, people sit up and pay attention.

While the cradle-to-grave impacts of coal are well documented, the fact remains that coal still provides 45 percent of the nation’s power. But coal's dominance is decreasing as new sources of power come online and energy efficiency improves.

To date, mountaintop removal coal mining has buried more than 2,500 miles of streams and leveled an area of Appalachia bigger than the state of Delaware. Perhaps even scarier than the outright wasteland it leaves are the health impacts it levels against the people of Appalachia. More than 19 peer-reviewed health studies detail these problems--from significantly higher rates of birth defects in areas of mountaintop removal mining to higher rates of major diseases like cancer and lung disease.

President Obama won the White House on a platform of hope and change – promising an end to dirty corporate influence over our political system and a beginning to an era in which our energy choices lead us to a clean, sustainable future, or at least don’t kill us or make us sick.

So far, the president’s performance has been mixed – with some deliveries on the promise and some disappointments. His last year, whether in office or in his first term, will be crucial in righting his spotty record and making good on his campaign promises to the American people.

The historic victory for clean air announced a few days ago—limits on the mercury, arsenic and other toxic emissions from coal plants—has been a long time coming. Congress called for these limits in 1990, but the coal power industry got to work undermining them straight away. As a result, instead of getting the breath of fresh air promised by Congress, Americans living in the shadow of a smokestack have been getting daily lungfuls of toxic air for 21 years.

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