The Iowa Utilities Board meets this morning to decide whether to approve a new coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown.
I’ve written before about how our state should focus on energy efficiency, conservation and new electricity generation through renewable sources, rather than expanding the use of coal, which has to be imported into Iowa and carries with it huge environmental and public-health costs.
The Iowa Medical Society and other public-health advocates have also made a strong case against the proposed coal-fired plants in Marshalltown and Waterloo. This op-ed piece by Maureen McCue explains why:
Each proposed coal plant would likely emit around 100 pounds of mercury a year, much of which would end up in our lakes and streams, and eventually, our bodies. The Environmental Protection Agency states that “on balance, mercury from coal-fired utilities is the hazardous air pollutant of greatest potential public-health concern.”
In expressing their concern about coal-fired power plants, Texas’ Catholic bishops noted that mercury poses a particular risk to “unborn life.” Thousands of women of child-bearing age have elevated levels of toxic mercury in their blood, which could lead to reduced IQ and neurologic impairment in their children.
Many of Iowa’s waterways, including parts of the Cedar, Upper Iowa and Mississippi rivers have fish-consumption advisories warning Iowans not to eat more than one meal a week because of elevated mercury levels. The Idaho governor, a Republican, banned coal plants in his state because “the health implications of mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants far outweigh any economic benefits.”
The EPA’s own scientific advisory board, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association and other health organizations have challenged current air-quality standards, such as those for fine-particulate matter, as insufficient to protect public health. Coal plants, which contribute to ozone and smog, are responsible for hundreds of premature deaths a year, increasing asthma hospitalizations, other respiratory ailments and cardiac disease.
The American Academy of Pediatrics noted that young children are particularly susceptible because their lungs aren’t fully formed and they spend a greater percentage of time outdoors.
The Des Moines Register’s editorial board came out against the coal-fired plant in Marshalltown but has been printing guest opinion pieces and letters to the editor on both sides.
Links to many of the Des Moines Register’s editorials and op-ed pieces for or against the Marshalltown plant can be found by clicking here (there’s a “related stories” bar on the right-hand side of the screen).
I’ve noticed that supporters of this project are trying to have it both ways. On the one hand, local supporters and representatives of organized labor talk about how many jobs will be created by the construction and operation of the new plant.
On the other hand, supporters say not to worry about increased greenhouse gas emissions from the new plant, because once it is built, Alliant will take offline or renovate older, less efficient facilities. If economic gains in Marshalltown come at the expense of other communities where Allliant facilities are located, doesn’t that suggest that Iowa’s economy on the whole would not benefit from this plant?
Here’s hoping the Iowa Utilities Board will reject the proposal. The rumor mill says it will be a 2-1 decision, with John Norris casting the decisive vote one way or another.