Be thankful coal plants in Iowa were shelved

For those who are still upset that new coal-fired power plants will not be built near Marshalltown and Waterloo, I recommend reading Jason Hancock’s recent article at Iowa Independent:

People who live near near sites used to store ash or sludge from coal-fired power plants have a one in 50 chance of developing cancer, according to a just released government report kept from the public for seven years by the Bush Administration.

The data, compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2002 and released Thursday by the watchdog groups Earth Justice and the Environmental Integrity Project, suggests that environmental contamination from the storage sites could last for a century or longer. […]

Coal ash, also known as fly ash, is the waste produced by burning coal. The nation’s power plants produce enough ash to fill 1 million railroad cars a year, according to a 2006 report by the National Research Council. Coal-burning power plants in Iowa produce 20,000 to 30,000 tons of coal ash every year. The Hawkeye State also imports coal ash from Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana.

As the new study shows, neighbors of coal ash storage sites have an elevated cancer risk even when those sites are functioning normally. Occasional catastrophes like last December’s huge spill in Tennessee add to the contamination problems, but even if all accidents could be prevented, heavy metals and other pollutants would still leach into groundwater at many sites.

I’ve written before about the respiratory problems and premature deaths caused by fine particulate matter, and coal-fired power plants are a leading source of that kind of air pollution.

Now we have proof that solid waste from coal-fired power plants endangers human health too.

Iowa is fortunate not to have two new coal-burning facilities under construction. Those would have been a 50-year investment in the wrong direction, adversely affecting air quality, water quality and of course greenhouse gas emissions.

There is still no such thing as clean coal.

Iowans will be better served by meeting our demand for electricity through clean renewable production as well as conservation and energy efficiency measures.

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