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Sue Sturgis' Posts

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Coal’s dirty secret

The December 2008 impoundment failure at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston plant inundated a nearby community with toxic coal ash.Photo: United Mountain DefenseA special Facing South investigation. When a billion gallons of coal ash broke loose from a holding pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston power plant near Harriman, Tenn. in December 2008, registered nurse Penny Dodson was living nearby with her 18-month-old grandson, Evyn. Like most of her neighbors, Dodson never gave much thought to the impoundment until it collapsed, destroying three homes, damaging 42 others and inundating the nearby Clinch and Emory rivers with the sludgy coal …

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With climate bill's fate uncertain, researchers offer another map to a clean energy future

Landmark legislation to curb U.S. carbon emissions is set to be introduced in the Senate today, but odds that the Kerry-Lieberman climate bill will pass are less than overwhelming. Former co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has withdrawn his support because he's upset with the Senate's decision to take up immigration reform first. He's also said he thinks the climate measure needs to be reassessed in light of the catastrophic oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Nevertheless, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) say they will press on because they believe they can win the support needed for …

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EPA proposes two options for coal ash oversight

EPA Administrator Lisa JacksonThe Environmental Protection Agency released not one, but two proposals yesterday for regulating the coal ash waste from power plants. The stricter rule of the two would empower the federal government to oversee coal ash like other hazardous waste; the less stringent rule would treat it like ordinary trash and leave oversight up to the states. The agency is asking the public to help it decide which approach makes the most sense during the 90-day comment period. "We look forward to the comments and participation of the American people," EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said during a press …

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Waterkeepers question use of dispersant chemicals at oil-spewing wellhead

The chief executive of BP says crews have been able to reduce the amount of oil reaching the Gulf's surface from a massive underwater leak by using chemicals at the gusher's source -- but environmental advocates are raising questions about the plan's safety. "We are adamantly opposed to dispersants being used at the well-head as we believe it adds more toxins and less value to the clean up process," says Mobile Baykeeper Casi Callaway. "Certain dispersants may be useful at the shore/grassbed line, but we can't endorse this action until we know what specific dispersants are to be used!" Speaking …

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Details emerge on study of cancer near U.S. nuclear plants

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently asked the National Academy of Sciences to study cancer risk for people living near nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities, and details of that research were discussed at yesterday's meeting of the Academy's Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board. The research request came in response to "recurrent stakeholder concerns," said Brian Sheron, director of NRC's Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research. The study will look at nuclear power plants as well as nuclear fuel facilities. It comes as the Obama administration is encouraging the expansion of commercial nuclear power. The NRC currently relies on a 1991 …

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New safety issues documented with nuclear reactors planned for Southeast

Serious safety concerns continue to mount for the AP1000, a new type of nuclear reactor proposed for power plant sites across the Southeast. A report released Wednesday warns that the design of the Westinghouse reactor makes it particularly vulnerable to through-wall corrosion -- already a widespread problem with existing commercial reactors -- and thus the possibility of leaking radiation in the event of an accident. The report was commissioned by the AP1000 Oversight Group, which involves more than a dozen nuclear watchdog organizations. "The potential consequences of a radiation release to the environment from a small hole or crack in …

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The hazards of using toxic coal ash for land development

Following the disastrous spill of a billion gallons of coal ash waste from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston plant in December 2008, poorly regulated coal ash impoundments like the one that failed have landed in the public spotlight. But other methods of disposing of coal ash waste have gotten less attention -- even though they still present serious environmental hazards. A new report from the N.C. Sierra Club illuminates one practice of coal ash waste disposal that until now has stayed largely in the regulatory shadows: the use of the material in structural fills for development projects such as roads …

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Louisiana environmental racism case gets hearing from Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

For the first time in history, an international human rights body has agreed to review a case involving allegations of environmental racism in the United States. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hear a complaint filed by the New Orleans-based Advocates for Environmental Human Rights (AEHR) on behalf of the people of Mossville, La. An autonomous body of the Organization of American States, the IACHR along with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights comprise the inter-American system for promoting and protecting human rights. Scheduled to take place some time in the next three months, the review will consider …

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Tapping the power of energy efficiency

One of the fastest-growing states in the nation has the potential to save its residents billions of dollars over the next decade and a half and create thousands of new jobs to boot. How? By adopting several common-sense policies to save energy and investing more in clean-energy research. So concludes a new report focused on North Carolina by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. "North Carolina's Energy Future: Electricity, Water, and Transportation Efficiency" offers a set of policies that could meet nearly a quarter of the state's energy demand while boosting its economy with 38,000 new …

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Ending North Carolina's dependence on dirty coal

As a state that depends heavily on coal-fired power, North Carolina currently dumps more climate-disrupting carbon dioxide pollution into the environment from burning fossil fuels than 186 nations. But a new analysis [pdf] by a clean-energy advocacy group finds that it would be relatively easy to break the state's dirty energy dependency -- and eliminate the need for expensive new nuclear reactors to boot. The N.C. Waste Awareness and Reduction Network will present the findings during this week's N.C. Utilities Commission hearings on how Progress Energy and Duke Energy -- the state's two biggest power providers -- plan to meet …

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