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March 18, 2010

Coal News Round-Up: Photos, Smog, and Blue Sludge

Lots of coal news recently - let's start with a fun sign showing we're getting under some coal companies' skin. Doug Howell of our Coal Free Northwest campaign sent along two photos of note.

This is a billboard on I-5 in between Seattle and Portland, and outside of the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia, Washington.
Billboard on I-5

Yes, of course we are fighting this plant.

The second photo Doug sent along is a little scary. "This is a 19th century horse-drawn cart full of coal," said Doug. "Check out their advertising slogan and the 21st century premonition."
WA Historical Society 2
 
Yeesh.

Let's move onto to some stories about great organizing and activism. On Tuesday our Big Picture and Beyond Coal folks held a National Day of Action on Smog, coinciding with the deadline for public comments on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed ozone rule.

Taking the advice of scientists and health professionals, EPA proposed new rules to lower the amount of harmful ozone, or smog, in our air.

There were events all over the U.S., and we've already seen some great news clips from the gatherings. Check it out:
Groups press EPA to strengthen smog controls, Pittsburgh Post- Gazette

Students, Sierra Club advocate for cleaner air, Salt Lake Tribune

Sierra Club, schoolchildren, lawmaker urge action on ozone limits, Deseret News

Environmentalists warn Surry coal plant will endanger Hampton Roads, Daily Press

Dozens at Arlington meeting voice support for ozone limits, Fort Worth Star Telegram

EPA readies tough new smog standard, WFAA-TV (Dallas)

Speakers urge tighter ozone standards at Arlington hearing, Dallas Morning News

Chicago's coal-free future, Clean Power Coalition lights the way, Huffington Post

Clean energy rally maintains coal agenda, Collegiate Times (VA Tech)

Group pushes VA Tech to "Go Green", WSET

EPA plans to limit coal emissions, MSU State News

Students demand clean air, fight use of coal on campus, Red and Black (UGA)

And there's still more news rolling in! You can stay up to date on what our Big Picture campaign is up to by following the website and its group on Climate Crossroads.

Finally, in other coal news, Rolling Stone ran an excellent article recently on the reality of coal ash and how toxic it is. Here's a particular eye-opening section on one coal ash impoundment the writer visited:

Back before the spill in Kingston, I visited one of the nation's largest dumping grounds for coal waste - an impoundment site called Little Blue Run, near Shippingport, Pennsylvania. Little Blue Run is a huge, eerie lake filled with ash and sludge from FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield coal plant, a 2,490-megawatt giant that sits on the banks of the Ohio River. FirstEnergy recycles some of the scrubber sludge from the plant into wallboard, but the rest of it gets mixed with the coal ash and pumped through big steel pipes for seven miles and emptied into Little Blue Run. The sludge has a thick, pasty texture, but it's the color of the lake itself that's spooky: a luminous, metallic blue, with swirls of emerald green.

Like the vast majority of waste ponds in America, Little Blue Run is unlined - meaning there is no barrier between this toxic metallic stew and the groundwater beneath it. According to a report by the National Research Council, coal ash typically contains 24 different pollutants — some of them deadly, even in minute quantities. In humans, the toxins in coal ash can cause cancer of the liver, kidney, lung and bladder, as well as neurological damage in children. In animals, especially fish and amphibians, they can cause developmental abnormalities. The sheer quantity of toxic metals produced by a big coal plant is mind-boggling. At Little Blue Run, for example, FirstEnergy pumps 81,000 pounds of arsenic compounds into the pond every year. In its undiluted form, a thimbleful will kill you.
Here are two pictures of that impoundment from Google Maps' satellite view.
Little Blue Run Ash Pond PA 2 web
Little Blue Run Ash Pond PA web

Bizarre color, huh?

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