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Bruce Nilles' Posts

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New report reveals widespread toxic coal ash contamination

Power industry lobbyist Jim Roewer: "Wasn't a problem." Leslie Stahl: "Well, it was a problem, but we just didn't know it." This excerpt from a recent 60 Minutes story on toxic coal waste sums up the current trouble with the millions of tons of toxic ash left over each year from burning coal for energy.  While scientists and experts know, and have known for years that coal ash is full of harmful pollution that can cause cancer and other serious illnesses, the issue flew largely under the radar until the massive TVA disaster. Even now nobody, including the EPA, has a full …

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The Reign of King Coal is Ending

by Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign Contrary to the impression you may have been left with after reading a recent Associated Press piece about the future (or lack thereof) of coal in this country, the reign of “King Coal” is ending. Though the AP piece makes some good points (specifically, noting that “the process [for producing electricity from coal] has changed little since Thomas Edison built the first plant in 1882” and that even after $3.4 billion in stimulus spending, there is currently “no way of capturing carbon” from coal-fired power plants), the idea that …

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Burning Coal + Hot Days = Unhealthy Air Warnings

Yesterday and today are code orange unhealthy air alert days in the Washington, DC, region where I live. The 95+ degree temperatures and excessive ground-level ozone create extremely unhealthy air – especially for kids, senior citizens, and people with pre-existing health conditions. These aren't the first days this summer where we've had these warnings, and I know that the Washington, DC, region is not alone in its unhealthy air warnings. Temperatures are soaring across the U.S. - and while one major source of air pollution is vehicles, the other major cause is burning coal for energy. And with this comes …

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Take Action: Some In Congress Spreading Misinformation About Coal Ash

Coal ash contains numerous poisonous chemicals, including arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, boron, thallium, and aluminum. So why are some members of Congress wanting to block action from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson that would protect people from toxic coal ash? It's true - 139 House members and 36 Senators either signed onto letters asking as much, or wrote their own letters (links to the letters are farther down in this post). What's worse is that the letters are full of misleading information and inaccuracies about the public health risks of coal ash. Coal-fired power plants produce …

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Game Changer: EPA Asserts Tar Sands Pipeline Environmental Analysis is Inadequate

This post was co-written by Lena Moffitt, Washington Representative for the Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign. This week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blasted the State Department's draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline - asserting that the EIS is "woefully deficient" because "the Draft EIS does not provide the scope or detail of analysis necessary to fully inform decision makers and the public, and we recommend that additional information and analysis be provided." The Keystone XL is a massive pipeline designed to carry tar sands oil from Canada into the U.S., and we've long …

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Big Cities Want Big Changes in Energy

Today I'll focus on yet another community suffering from coal's pollution - but this community is a little bit larger, and it's on the front end of an emerging trend. The city is Chicago and it's starting what could be a national movement to clean up dirty energy in the inner city. Some of our oldest and dirtiest coal plants are located in major cities across the U.S.; and they are often located in areas with other major pollution sources, exposing residents of these densely populated areas to higher levels of harmful pollution than their neighbors. What's happening now in …

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Ashley Judd is Doing the Right Thing

My colleague, Sierra Club Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon, just wrote this excellent piece on Ashley Judd and I wanted to share it here: Actress Ashley Judd has recently been the target of some very harsh criticism and language from the coal industry in Appalachia. This is not surprising behavior from the coal industry, since Big Coal often resorts to personal attacks when they feel like their dirty, dangerous, expensive way of life is threatened. This harsh language and attacks are coming in response to Judd's June speech at the National Press Club where she railed against mountaintop removal coal mining …

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EPA Takes Action to Protect People from Dangerous Coal Pollution

How's this for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) fulfilling its role to protect environmental and public health: On Tuesday, EPA proposed a rule that would prevent between 14,000 and 36,000 premature deaths annually. The Transport Rule would set stronger emissions standards for the dangerous air pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants in the eastern United States. This new rule would replace the Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR), which had been struck down by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2008. While a thorough review and comment period remains to be completed, this is a positive …

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Senator Robert Byrd: An Appreciation

This post was co-written by Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, who is also a native West Virginian. On September 21, 2006, grandfather and former coal miner Ed Wiley took the final steps of a 455-mile walk that began in the coalfields of West Virginia and ended in Washington, DC, at the office of Senator Robert Byrd. Ed had made his two-month, one-man pilgrimage to ask Senator Byrd to build a new school for the students of Marsh Fork Elementary, which is located immediately beneath an earthen dam holding back 2.8 billion gallons of coal sludge, …

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Report: Coal Industry Harms TN and WV More Than It Helps

Two reports released this week reveal that when it comes to the bottom line of state budgets, the coal industry costs Tennessee and West Virginia more than it provides. These reports are among the first to examine actual revenues and expenditures related to coal industry employment, taxes and subsidies in Tennessee and West Virginia. Downstream Strategies produced the reports. For Tennessee (PDF), the report found that the coal industry contributed just over $1 million to the state budget - less than one-tenth of one percent of the state's total revenue in 2009. That benefit was overwhelmed by the costs imposed …

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