Sunday, February 24, 2008

NY Coal-fired Power Plant to be SHUT DOWN

A coal-fired power plant near Rochester NY will be shut down as early as May 2008. The plant is located upwind of both Rochester and the Adirondack Forest Preserve, and it emits harmful pollution at a higher rate than any other power plant in New York. Rochester Gas will be allowed to replace the coal-burning unit with a cleaner burning plant fueled by natural gas. The Rochester Gas & Electric unit will also will pay a $200,000 civil penalty and fund $500,000 of programs to improve energy efficiency and reduce air pollution in the Rochester area, according to NY Attorney General Cuomo.
Studies have linked coal-fired power plants to hotspots of mercury pollution in the Adirondack Forest Preserve. The Adirondack region is located downwind of many coal plants that emit even higher levels of mercury pollution than does the Rochester plant. Ninety-six percent of the lakes in the Adirondack region exceed the recommended EPA action level for methyl mercury in fish.
Mercury is present in two-thirds of Adirondack loons at levels that negatively impact their behavior and reproductive capacity, posing a significant risk to their survival. The survival of
the loon in this polluted environment is viewed as the proverbial "canary in the coal mine", warning us of potential disaster. This dire state of affairs prompted the Adirondack Mountain Club, along with other organizations and states, to file a legal brief with the US Court of Appeals last year. Loons eat fish, and high levels of mercury in fish have elicited advisories that children as well as women of childbearing age should not eat any fish from waters in the Catskill reservoirs. Mercury can damage developing brains of fetuses and young children, and scientists fear this could cause neurological problems in 60,000 newborns per year in the USA. Fortunately for humans and loons, the federal appeals court recently struck down a 2005 EPA mercury-control plan which imposed less stringent requirements on power plants to reduce mercury pollution.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sustainabilty and the Story of STUFF

Annie Leonard, an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues, made an informative and humorous video-cartoon called "The Story of Stuff". It explores the costs and consequences of our consumer culture and its impact on the environment, third-world nations, working class Americans, personal health and our general state of happiness. To learn more about sustainability, and how our consumer culture works against it, click here to watch Annie Leonard's video.
Sustainability is defined as "a characteristic of a process or state that can be maintained at a certain level indefinitely. The term, in its environmental usage, refers to the potential longevity of vital human ecological support systems, such as the planet's climatic system, systems of agriculture, industry, forestry, and fisheries, and human communities in general and the various systems on which they depend."
Since sustainability has to do with the environment, ecology and people, I went to the Environmental Protection Agency web site to see if they knew about the concept. They cite it, but they define it a little differently. According to the EPA, sustainability is "the ability to achieve economic prosperity while protecting the natural systems of the planet."* Hmmmm, economic prosperity wasn't mentioned in the previous definition. And why does economic prosperity come first, before the more important part about protecting the planet?
A major problem for us and for future generations is that our dirty energy economy can't prosper without polluting the planet and increasing global warming. Simply put, our current system is not sustainable! We need to transition to a clean energy economy that will create new jobs in support of renewable energy sources that don't pollute the planet. And oh yes, contrary to Bush's advice to "go shopping", we could all do the planet a big favor by purchasing LESS STUFF!

[*UPDATE, September 2008: the EPA has now adopted a more reasonable definition of sustainability: “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”]

Sunday, February 10, 2008

EPA: is "P" for POLLUTION?

EPA stands for the Environmental PROTECTION Agency. So why aren't they protecting the environment? An earlier post described the public health hazards of mercury pollution and that the EPA was slow to respond to the problem back in 1999. It's not that the EPA wasn't aware of mercury pollution, as seen in EPA's own 1998 data on national atmospheric mercury (Hg) deposition. The most polluted region on the USA map is the North East (red > orange > yellow > gray > white). The Centers for Disease Control found that about 10% of women carry enough mercury to put a fetus at risk of neurological damage. The single largest source of mercury pollution is coal-fired power plants.

Recently, a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court unanimously struck down a mercury-control plan imposed by the EPA in 2005. The court said that the Bush administration ignored the law when it imposed less stringent requirements on power plants to reduce mercury pollution. For the full story, click here.

Is it the role of government to serve Big Coal and other corporations? What has happened to a government FOR the PEOPLE? Where have all the PUBLIC SERVANTS gone? WANTED: real public servants for the 2008 election, and an EPA that Protects.

Friday, February 8, 2008

'Clean Coal'? NEVER WILL BE !

Earlier posts here discussed 'clean coal' (No Such Thing), the negative impacts on the environment of extracting coal by mountaintop removal and the detrimental effects of mercury and other pollutants on human heath. Recently, Frank Hugar wrote a letter to the Buffalo News Editor raising yet another hazard of burning coal: radioactive isotopes in the gaseous and particulate combustion products. To see his letter, "There’s no such thing as clean coal, never will be", click here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


WASHINGTON — The Energy Department canceled its program for demonstrating how to use coal for electric power without adding to global warming, saying the project needed an overhaul to rein in soaring costs. $1.8 Billion was proposed to fund FutureGen, a 275 megawatt coal-fired plant, and officials feared the cost would increase. The Department said, however, that the cancellation did not represent a step away from coal as a fuel. About $40 Million of taxpayers money has already been spent on the project, and the final subsidies were projected to be about $1 Billion. For the full NY Times report, click here.

The new proposal is to have industry add carbon-capturing systems paid for by taxpayers to planned commercial plants built by industry. Is Capturing CO2 a Pipe Dream? Click here for more.

SIDNEY -- Australian coal companies contributed more than $50 million to the FutreGen project. A Greens senator, Christine Milne, called on the Australian Government to pull taxpayers money out of FutureGen and other projects saying the clean coal strategy had collapsed. "Government funding for FutureGen and any other clean coal pipedreams should be withdrawn in favour of renewable technologies that are up and running now." For the full story, click here.

The above articles discuss only the monetary costs. What about the environment? Environmental destruction by strip mining and mountaintop removal, and the pollution generated by coal transportation by rail will remain. What about future generations? Coal is not a renewable energy source. Give clean, renewable energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal a chance, and grow new 'green-collar' jobs!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

February 5th: Super Tuesday at the Polls

Check out the Primaries and Caucuses across the country at the Washington Post.
Twenty-four states will hold primaries or caucuses, with 52% of all pledged Democratic party delegates and 41% of the total Republican party delegates at stake.

Who will you vote for ? See 'How GREEN is your Candidate', below.


Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike are interested in how renewable energy and energy efficiency measures can bring us 'green-collar' jobs and stimulate our ailing economy. For reports from the primaries by, click here and here.

- Exit poll on clean energy and energy efficiency in SC, click here.
- Climate activists flipped out over 'clean coal' lobby, click here.

Friday, February 1, 2008

How GREEN is Your Candidate?

Grist Compares the Candidates
A table showing at a glance where the presidential candidates stand on climate and energy issues, click here.

Interviews and information on the presidential candidates' environmental positions, click here.

Where Candidates stand on Science & Technology

The American Association for the Advancement of Science compares candidates stance on Energy and Environment and on other science and technology (S&T) issues including: Competitiveness & Innovation; STEM Education & Workforce; Better Health for Americans; and National & Homeland Security. Click here.