Since 1965, my first year of medical school, I knew that coal kills (see Alan Lockwood’s The Silent Epidemic: Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health). Since 1989, when I read Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature, I knew that climate change was the most serious threat to humanity and all other life on earth other than a nuclear holocaust.
It is amazing therefore to watch both of our presidential candidates never discuss climate change, called one of the greatest moral challenges of our times by both climate scientists and faith leaders from all major religious traditions.
It is more than disheartening to hear them use the words “clean coal” to describe our reliance on coal. Coal kills – period.
A Harvard University study (Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal) estimated $74 billion dollars yearly of public health costs in Appalachia alone. If you ever held a piece of coal in your hands you know that coal is dirty, not clean.
Coal is expensive – all external costs add $374 billion in added costs to coal yearly.
Coal destroys communities – more than 500 mountains decapitated, 2000 miles of streams lost, and whole towns abandoned because of mountain top removal mining in Appalachia.
Coal is not just destroying Appalachian communities. North Carolina is home to 14 high hazard coal ash ponds that are leaking toxic chemicals into our groundwater (High Levels of Coal Ash Contaminants Found in N.C. Waters). North Carolina’s agencies are not adequately protecting our groundwater, so a coalition of environmental organizations has filed litigation against the Environmental Management Commission to enforce its regulations. Although not an official intervener in this litigation, NC Interfaith Power & Light is a member of Asheville Beyond Coal. Our goal is to have Progress Energy close its Skyland Coal Plant by 2025.
You can do your part now by contacting Senator Hagan’s and Senator Burr’s offices and asking them to reject any legislation that hampers the EPA from making enforceable rules on coal ash regulation such as Senate Bill 3512.
–Richard Fireman, M.D., NCIPL Public Policy Advisor