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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.

If you’re wondering what you should be doing on Saturday night, well, here it is: watch some television! At 8 p.m. eastern, the world television premiere of "Coal Country" will be on the Reel Impact series on Planet Green.

Now, about the film. Earthjustice is a proud sponsor of "Coal Country," and we’ve been hosting events in San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Chicago to show people this powerful film and educate them on the tragedy that is mountaintop removal mining.

There’s been a lot discussed in these pages about the destruction, pollution and impacts of mountaintop removal mining, but never before has there been such an insightful and moving depiction. "Coal Country" interviews miners, activists, politicians and coalfield residents to present the true impacts of coal in Appalachia. Phylis Geller—who wrote, produced and directed the film—and executive producer Mari-Lynn Evans weave a story that really gets at the true costs of our dependence on coal.

Take the time to watch "Coal Country" on Planet Green this Saturday night. If you don’t have Planet Green in your cable package, you can purchase a copy of the DVD here. And for those not in the eastern time zone, the film is being replayed at 11 p.m. eastern, so you can watch it during prime time.

It's not enough that Tennessee's Clinch River was devastated by a toxic spill that dumped 1 billion gallons of coal ash into its waters last December. Now the Tennessee Valley Authority wants to systematically pollute the river (which leads to the mighty Tennessee River) to the tune of one million gallons a day of toxic pollutants. We're talking dumping mercury, selenium and other chemicals into a river which the Tennessee Valley Authority is supposed to be protecting.

Amid the hoopla for such mainstream movies as "Where The Wild Things Are" last week, another film opened in New York with its own fervent following. Nearly 1,000 people packed a premiere screening of "Coal Country," a documentary exposing the brutal impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining.

Co-hosted by Earthjustice and the Sierra Club, the screening was followed by a concert featuring Kathy Mattea, The Klezmatics, Jean Ritchie, Diana Jones and a surprise appearance by Justin Townes Earle. Two more screenings are scheduled for this month: Nov. 10 in Chicago, and Nov. 12 in Los Angeles. To make reservations and to find out more about mountaintop removal, go to www.earthjustice.org/mtr.

 

When is hazardous coal ash not considered hazardous? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, when you dump it in a landfill as opposed to a pond. This approach is currently being floated by the EPA in its plans to regulate coal ash later this year. Coal ash—the waste left over after coal is burned at coal-fired power plants—is full of dangerously high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium and other hazardous metals. Cancer rates skyrocket near coal ash dumps that have leaked into drinking water supplies.

The halls of Congress are echoing this week with debate over proposed legislation to fight global warming—a fight that can't be won without addressing a primary cause of global warming: our dependence on coal. As the rumpus goes on there, a real-life battle between coal and the future of American energy has reached a pivotal moment in Appalachia.

President Barack Obama handed out a passel of money today for "smart grid" projects, much of it going towards house electrical meters that can be controlled by power companies. The meters allow companies to manipulate how much electricity each house uses at any given time -- useful in times of power shortages and for being able to shift power from where it's least needed to where it's most needed.

Two years after Earthjustice successfully fought Florida Power and Light's plan to build the nation's largest coal plant near Everglades National Park, the state is taking a giant leap forward toward clean energy.

Today, President Barack Obama is touring FPL's new DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center in Arcadia —the largest photovoltaic facility in the U.S.

"Instead of having a dirty coal plant to provide power, we have clean solar energy," said David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice in Florida. "It is gratifying to know that Earthjustice helped change public policy and moved our state to more common-sense technology. We are finally putting the sunshine back in the Sunshine State."

In June 2007, Earthjustice gathered evidence and experts which helped convince the Florida Public Service Commission to consider the full costs associated with polluting coal plants. It was the first time that global warming played a role in a PSC decision, and the first time in 15 years that state regulators rejected a new power plant.

At 25 megawatts, it will generate nearly twice as much energy as the second-largest photovoltaic facility in the U.S.—Nevada's Nellis Solar Power Plant.
 

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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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.