Pages tagged "'airpollution"

The True Cost of Coal

(Photo: Emrah Gurel, AP) This week a double tragedy has struck the coal mining industry.

On Monday night in West Virginia, a coal outburst at a Patriot-operated mine killed two miners. And on Tuesday an explosion and fire at a coal mine in Western Turkey  killed at least 245, with hundreds more still missing.

Our hearts and minds are with the miners and their families.

These disasters underscore the horrific cost of “cheap” and dirty energy.  Miners’ deaths such as these are preventable. We call on coal companies to immediately improve labor conditions, and on the governments of Turkey and the United States to strengthen their regulatory oversight of the coal industry.

At the same time, here at Rainforest Action Network, we are reflecting on the less noticed human cost of coal.  Every year, more than one million people die of the air pollution that comes from burning coal. 150,000 more die from the extreme weather events aggravated by climate change–and coal is the single biggest driver of global warming.

All of this points to an obvious conclusion. We must not continue to make these sacrifices in order to produce energy from such a dirty and unsustainable source. Coal is a dangerous and outdated fuel, and in the 21st century we should not be using it to power our homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. It is past time for us to shift our energy production to clean, safe renewable power.

Bank of Coal: Bank of America Stadium Gets Renamed

As the largest financier of the U.S. coal industry, Bank of America should be called the "Bank of Coal." So we decided to rename it. Today, five RAN activists scaled Bank of America Stadium and dropped a 70' x 25' banner reading "Bank of America Coal." What better place to send our message than BofA Stadium in Charlotte, NC, which stands as a giant symbol of everything wrong with the bank’s practices? And, as the site of the upcoming DNC, is one of the most publicized buildings in the country.

BofA pays big bucks for the naming rights to the stadium because of its marketing potential, even while the bank's investments in the coal industry are polluting Charlotte communities and causing severe health problems. In 2012, for instance, one in every four children living in Charlotte will develop asthma or other respiratory problems, while 3,000 North Carolinians will die prematurely, all due to air pollution from coal-fired power plants. There are four coal plants in the Charlotte area, including Duke’s Riverbend plant, which is financed by Bank of America and sits just 12 miles from Uptown Charlotte, not too far from Bank of America Stadium. [youtube GORC1X5HO0M 550] The stadium is intended to be an enormous symbol of BofA’s financial strength and role in the Charlotte community. Instead, it is a massive symbol of BofA's profits-over-people-and-planet mentality. Our action today kicks off a week of events in the lead up to BofA’s annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte on May 9, which is slated to have more than 1,000 protestors in attendance. We need you to stand with these activists. Sign the petition calling on BofA to stop bankrolling the coal industry. Charlotte is hardly alone in being polluted by BofA-financed coal plants. In the past two years alone, Bank of America has pumped some $6.74 billion into the U.S. coal industry – more than any other bank, as detailed in our campaign briefing Bank of America: Risking Public Health and the Climate. Nationally, coal pollution is responsible for 13,000 premature deaths, more than $100 billion in annual health costs, and more than 200,000 asthma attacks every year. Pollution from coal-fired power plants leads to smog, which can cause chest pain, coughing, and breathing difficulties and can make conditions like bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma worse or even fatal. Today, two out of every five U.S. families live in places with unsafe air. Yesterday, we teamed up with the Sierra Club to release our third annual Coal Finance Report Card, which ranks the largest financiers of mountaintop removal coal mining and coal-fired power plants. Bank of America received a failing grade for its weak coal policy and considerable exposure to the industry. Bank of America funds every sector of the U.S. coal industry, including companies operating controversial mountaintop removal coal mining sites and those planning to build coal export terminals along the Pacific Northwest coastline. In addition to posing a major public health risk, coal burning is responsible for one third of U.S. carbon emissions — the main contributor to climate change. Coal is an outdated, dirty source of fuel. What’s more, it’s a dying industry — now making up less than 40% of total energy generation in the country. In other words, coal is the ultimate subprime investment for the climate. We plan to take that message to BofA’s management and shareholders at its annual shareholder meeting on May 9. If you can join us, find the details here. If you can’t, you can still stand with the activists protesting Bank of America’s practices by signing the petition today.

EPA Announces Powerful Air Pollution Safeguards: You Spoke and Lisa Jackson Listened

As the holidays draw near I'm raising a glass to all of you RAN activists, because—along with hundreds of thousands of clean air advocate allies—you stood up and asked the Environmental Protection Agency to protect our environment and our bodies from toxic pollutants. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the first-ever Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) from Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. yesterday.  The long-awaited air pollution rule promises to prevent 34,000 deaths otherwise caused from toxic pollutants released from power plants including mercury, arsenic, cyanide, nickel, chromium, lead and more. In making the announcement, Administrator Jackson focused on children’s health issues, including cases of asthma (which her own son is battling), birth defects and impaired brain development caused by mercury in the air. The U.S. has been waiting a long time for this. It took more than two decades of negotiating and 900,000 public comments (20,000 from RAN activists), but the final MATS rule marks a great step forward for clean air in this country. The Obama administration has yielded mixed news on the environmental front all year, so it was cheering to hear a strong, bold announcement like this one be issued forth by the EPA despite Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski's attempts to instill fear in the heart of the public over the new standard's effect on energy reliability. Even after two decades of undulating process, Senator Murkowski called the pace of the EPA rulemaking “reckless” when in fact continuing to allow outdated coal plants to operate is much more so. EPA estimates show the new safeguards “will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. “ If the rule had been finalized ten years ago, would 111,000 people still be living, and 47,000 heart attacks prevented? The finalized rule will likely affect the future of about 40 percent of coal-fired power plants in the U.S., which operate substandard to the rule’s particulate pollution requirements. The utility companies operating these plants are weighing up the economics of retiring plants versus investing hundreds of millions of dollars in life-extending retrofits for the aging plants. We have a clear understanding of the negative impacts that burning coal has on our health, economy, and climate. With the solar and wind industries booming, we know how to produce electricity without endangering ourselves. As we head into 2012, it is well past time to phase out of coal entirely and transition to cleaner and renewable energy sources. If you'd like to be a part of that transition, joining RAN's campaign to shift the biggest U.S. banks away from coal financing and towards clean energy is a great place to start. Lisa Jackson concluded her press conference at the children's hospital with some hurdles the EPA encounters,  “If we started hiring engineers instead of lobbyists and scientists instead of lawyers, we [the EPA] would be able to do our job much faster for the American people.” I absolutely agree. [youtube Sx0vvn_Wn8o 550]

Obama Buries Bad News, Insults Us All

Coal PlantIf you blinked, you probably missed it. Last Friday, when most were getting ready to enjoy the Labor Day holiday, President Obama slipped out an announcement that he was asking the Environmental Protection Agency to abandon a move to strengthen air pollution rules, a tightening of the Ozone Standard. I had hoped for better than this. The ozone standard is one of approximately 15 rules due to be finalized between now and 2012 that, in combination, could force the retirement of almost half of the aging U.S. coal power fleet. This abandonment means we won’t see a new Ozone Standard until 2013 at the earliest (when it should have been this summer), a date that just happens to be after the next election. What does this mean for our prospects of retiring the nation’s filthiest power plants? That remains to be seen. We did get some good news earlier this summer on the Transport Rule. I’ve played “wait and see” with this administration before and would not be surprised if we end up getting a rotation of good news-bad news, as we saw with the EPA’s mountaintop removal mining permit announcements last year. Meanwhile, this sly act of “burying” bad news on a day when it won’t be noticed is not just sneaky, it’s downright insulting. It’s insulting to the people living in neighborhoods close to coal plants who are adversely exposed to respiratory illnesses. The EPA had estimated that their new rule would save 12,000 lives each year. A transition to cleaner, less polluting power sources cannot come quickly enough for these communities. It’s insulting to the EPA, which, under the leadership of Lisa Jackson, has been working to enforce the Clean Air Act to its original intent based on scientific findings. Ms Jackson has persisted with her mandate, despite repeated attack from the Republicans. Why on earth would the President side with polluting industries against one of his most loyal Administrators? It’s insulting to the 1,200+ environmental activists who spent the week outside the White House getting arrested in protest of the administration’s plans to approve the hugely polluting Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport half a million barrels a day of carbon-intensive crude from oil-sands developments in western Canada. Those arrested included landowners, scientists, celebrities and people who had worked on Obama’s election campaign. Does the President actually think that industry dollars will get him re-elected without the presence of hard-working activists to do the door-to-door footwork?

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