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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.

The Environmental Protection Agency has taken another positive step towards reining in the destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining.

Today, the EPA declared that all of the 79 permits it was reviewing would violate the Clean Water Act and must undergo more in-depth environmental assessment by both the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers. This is a welcome action that Earthjustice called for two weeks ago.

Now, the two agencies have 60 days to review each permit. We can't imagine that they can reach any other conclusion than that these mines will cause irreparable harm to the waterways, land and communities of Appalachia. The permits must be denied, and beyond that, the Obama administration should follow up by reinstating and enforcing clean water rules gutted by the Bush administration.

On most environmental matters, the Obama administration scores high marks from us, especially for revitalizing the role of science and respect for the law in the agency's decisions. The shift in ethos from eight years of ruinous Bush policies occurred almost immediately after Obama took office. We have seen dramatic positive changes in how some federal agencies deal with the key issues of climate change and clean energy, roadless protections, clean air, and hazardous waste regulations.

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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.