Friday, March 19, 2010

Springtime On Coal Sludge Pond

Children play in a playground in Racine, Ohio, across the Ohio River from American Electric Power's (AEP) Mountaineer coal power plant in New Haven, West Virginia, October 30, 2009.
Photo: Loeb/AFP/Getty

Try and be a sheet of paper with nothing on it. Be a spot of ground where nothing is growing, where something might be planted, a seed, possibly, from the Absolute.


A general may establish peace, but it is not for the general to seek peace.

---Zen saying

This matter is like a great mass of fire; when you approach it your face is sure to be scorched. It is again like a sword about to be drawn; when it is once out of the scabbard, someone is sure to lose his life. But if you neither fling away the scabbard nor approach the fire, you are no better than a piece of rock or wood. Coming to this pass one has to be quite a resolute character full of spirit.


Type "coal sludge" into a Google Image Search, and see the photos that come up. If you live in the humanly created ugliness known as Coal Country, you know these images well. You may not have seen a sludge pond or strip mine up close because the corporations hide them...but you know they're there. If you don't live in Coal Country but only flip switches and push buttons all day, then we need to remind you. That coal-fired electricity comes from where we live, and this is the mess.

In Southeast Ohio we're getting---er---fired up for a public hearing in Belmont County about the creation of a new and huge sludge pond. The biggest coal company around here is Murray...and sludge also is called slurry, so this is Murray Slurry. Sierra Club in these parts is encouraging openly as many folks as possible to turn out for the hearing on March 30th. We already know there'll be tons of coal people there, and hearings around here on this subject can get pretty intense. Nachy Kanfer, out of Columbus, is Sierra's point man in its Beyond Coal campaign, and here's a message he sent out last week~~~

Tell Governor Strickland and Ohio's EPA Director You Want Clean Water, Not Toxic Coal Slurry for Ohio

Several years ago, Ohio's biggest coal mining company asked for permission to drain a pristine stream and fill it instead with coal slurry, a mixture of water, chemicals, and coal mining waste. In 2008, Ohio EPA rightly told Murray Energy to go back to the drawing board.

So what's Murray Energy's "new" plan for 2010? Drain a pristine stream and fill it with dirty coal slurry -- again. And this time, the company threatens to start firing people if it doesn't get its way.

Tell Governor Strickland and Ohio EPA Director Chris Korleski that job creation and environmental protection aren't competing issues -- they're the SAME issue.

We can't allow corporations to bully our elected officials who are trying to do the right thing. The Ohio EPA stood strong in 2008. Now, Ohio EPA must stand strong again.

Thank the Governor for his courage back in 2008 -- and urge him not to abandon that courage now.

The choice between decent jobs and clean water is false; in order to regain its economic edge, Ohio must move beyond coal to clean energy in the coming years and decades. Turning a pure freshwater stream into a huge toxic coal slurry impoundment is a giant step in the wrong direction.

As always, thanks for everything that you do to protect the environment and create new clean energy jobs in Ohio.

Nachy Kanfer
Sierra Club

P.S. There's an important public hearing in St. Clairsville on March 30, 6 p.m. on this issue. Find more information and RSVP here!

People who think of Appalachia as a sleepy, even lazy, pile of poverty may be surprised by the energy of conflict here. People are desperate for jobs, but cling to the old ways. "Dig a new mine" rings more bells in memory than "Learn to install a solar panel," and that's what the shouting's about. Coal yells louder than solar, and has lots of money for people are surprised when they learn there are jobs just waiting for trained people in renewable energy.

Yesterday Jeff Goodell posted a new article on Coal's Toxic Sludge to Rolling Stone online. It's also in the new issue, dated April 1st, on the stands now. Plunk down $4.99 to support the magazine if you're not a subscriber already. The piece starts like this~~~

Big coal has spent millions of dollars over the past year touting the virtues of what the industry calls "clean coal," but it's no secret that coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel. When you burn it, coal releases monstrous quantities of deadly compounds and gases — and it all has to go somewhere. The worst of the waste — heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium and mercury, all of which are highly toxic — are concentrated in the ash that's left over after coal is burned or in the dirty sludge that's scrubbed from smokestacks. Each year, coal plants in the U.S. churn out nearly 140 million tons of coal ash — more than 900 pounds for every American — generating the country's second-largest stream of industrial waste, surpassed only by mining. If you piled all the coal ash on a single football field, it would create a toxic mountain more than 20 miles high.

For decades, the industry has gotten away with dumping coal ash pretty much wherever it wants. It poured the stuff into vast lagoons, dumped it into mines, used it to pave roads, spread it on crops as fertilizer, even mixed it into everyday items like concrete, wallboard, vinyl flooring, bowling balls, potting soil and toothpaste. There are no federal regulations to speak of. Many states have minimal restrictions on where and how coal ash can be dumped, but the coal industry has a long history of buying off state regulators with a junket to Vegas and a few rounds of golf. In short, the industry had it made. Nearly 300 billion pounds of coal ash simply vanished from view each year, with less oversight than household garbage.

But all that changed just before 1 a.m. on December 22nd, 2008, when an earthen dam collapsed at a storage pond brimming with coal waste near Kingston, Tennessee. Within hours, a billion gallons of gray-black sludge had oozed into the once-lovely Emory River, destroying nearby homes and poisoning the water. It was the largest industrial disaster in American history, a flood of waste 100 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989. The cleanup of the river, which will take years to complete, is expected to cost as much as $1 billion.

Jeff's new book is called "How To Cool The Planet: Geoengineering And The Audacious Quest To Fix Earth's Climate." The Columbus Dispatch has a news story today about Ohio's coal-fired electric plants and how they rank in pumping out mercury into the nation's polluted air. Gavin, just down the River from the plant pictured above, ranks #12, and there's a photo of it.


jin said...

Hiya Jazzy!
Totally off topic but I wanted to make sure you read this (without me having to use your email addy):
I think you might want to check your computer for malware because I got an email from your gmail account that is most certainly not from you! It's a spambot or something... poor English & pushing electronic purchases from a website.
Feel free to delete this comment after you see it!

jazzolog said...

Thanks jin. Apparently something found my address book and sent that thing to everybody. I contacted Google and maybe the robots will fight it out. I get similar spam at blogger everyday and dutifully go around and delete it. Oh well, it's something like ads on TV I guess.

jazzolog said...

Followup to above:

I just logged into Google (to access the News feature) for the first time since letting them know of the difficulty jin mentions. A message came up that suspicious activity has been noted on my account, with a suggestion of something for me to do. I think that's pretty cool and quick action. We'll see if it works.

jin said...

I'll cross my fingers.

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