Kicking the Coal Habit
While Hirsh hardly articulates the majority opinion, other encouraging news cannot be debated. The few U.S. coal plants on the drawing board face daunting requirements. For example, while Southwestern Electric Power Company still plans to build its Turk plant in Arkansas (See “Smoke on the Water,” January-February 2008), a legal settlement forced by Audubon and the Sierra Club in December 2011 requires the company to retire its dirty Welsh 2 plant in Texas, create 400 megawatts of wind or solar power, contribute $10 million for land conservation and energy efficiency, and limit additional plants and transmission lines.
Across the nation students, some wearing “Kick-Ash” skivvies, are demonstrating against on-campus coal plants. At Michigan State University, students staged a sit-in to protest health hazards posed to themselves and East Lansing residents by the school’s coal-fired power plant. Twenty colleges and universities have promised to quit coal by signing on to the Sierra Club’s Campuses Beyond Coal initiative.
Finally, the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and Cross‐State Air Pollution Rule will annually prevent as many as 46,000 premature deaths and provide at least $150 billion in benefits, at least according to the EPA. And the agency recently announced carbon-dioxide limits for new power plants and major upgrades.
While we cannot wean ourselves from coal anytime soon, we’re phasing it out. Despite the “clean-coal” media blitz, Americans, from liberal environmentalists to conservative ranchers, now recognize it as a filthy, 19th-century fuel source whose days are clearly numbered.
What You Can Do
Conserve electricity and make your home energy efficient. Tell your legislators to support the EPA’s efforts to make coal plants safer for fish, wildlife, and people. For more information on coal-fired generation and proposed export of coal to Asia, go to beyondcoal.org.