Let’s Join the War on Dirty Coal
First, just to set the record straight, I am a natural gas producer, and dirty coal is a competing fuel.
So I do have a vested interest in putting the few dirty coal miners that are left out-of-work, but let’s consider the reasons to join the war on dirty coal, other than my economic ones.
Of course, the out-of-work miners in West Virginia aren’t ever going back to work mining dirty coal, but it’s not because of environmental concerns; it’s because dirty coal simply costs more to use. That’s right, cheap, clean natural gas is eating dirty coals lunch cost-wise, and over 200 dirty coal-fired plants have closed during the last few years and more are on the list to be closed. The environmental problems have only a minor part in the closing.
The war on dirty coal is one we need to win, because the spoils for winning are lower utility bills, and a cleaner environment. Maybe, you’re a ‘coal miner’s daughter’ and you’re in dirty coal’s hip pocket. If that’s the case, you support the use of dirty, coal-fired generating plants to provide electricity, then you’re on the hook with all the negatives that come with it. Of course, at a minimum, dirty coal plants spew out huge amounts of carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change caused by global warming, but there are a whole host of other problems in the burning of dirty coal. Take a look at major Chinese cities where thousands are wearing masks, and the air is so dirty you can’t see the sun. Of, course their incidences of lung disease are off the wall as well as numerous other ailments. Yes, dirty coal is a big part of the problem! Are you okay with that?
But that’s not the main reason I have in joining the war on dirty coal, and that problem is directly related to what a dirty coal-fired plants put in the atmosphere here in Arkansas. All dirty coal and dirty, dirty, lignite plants spew thousands of pounds of mercury into the atmosphere each year, and that vaporized mercury comes down in the frequent rains we have here in Arkansas. Our weather systems almost always move from west to east, and that brings the mercury leaden air from Texas right over Arkansas. Texas has four out of the top five dirty coal and lignite plants in the nation that emit mercury, and a stunning 4500 pounds of mercury from these plants goes into the atmosphere every year in Texas, and a lot of that drops into the lakes and rivers in Arkansas. But Arkansas has nothing to brag about since around 800 pounds of mercury is put into the air from Arkansas’s three dirty coal-fired plants. As the mercury contaminates the streams and lakes it entered the food chain at the very bottom, and is ingested by the smallest organisms. However, the problem with mercury is very simple. It is not passed through, but stays within the organism, and when the larger fish in the food chain consume these small fish the mercury is slowly added to the larger fish until at the upper end of the food chain in large predatory fish such as bass and catfish it become concentrated enough to be harmful to humans who consume those fish. That’s the real problem with dirty coal as far as I’m concerned. Numerous studies have shown the harmful effects of ingesting contaminated fish, and the Arkansas Department of Health has issued a warning about consuming fish from certain lakes and streams. Studies have shown babies born from a mother who consumed more than the recommended amounts of mercury contaminated fish during the early months of pregnancy are very likely to produce a child with a lowered I.Q. So that’s the big problem with dirty coal fired generating plants.
The combination of the Texas and Arkansas dirty coal-fired plants and industrialization of America in the last 50 years has caused the mercury in fish problem. It’s a tough problem to solve, but a good start would be to convert the dirty coal and lignite burning electrical generating plants in Arkansas and Texas into clean burning natural gas fired plants. Then our mercury in fish problem would begin to slowly disappear.
However, we seem to be taking a step backwards. Arkansas’s attorney general is suing the EPA to stop them from enforcing the new standards that would force these dirty coal-fired plants to add scrubbers to remove the various harmful elements they emit, if they continued to burn dirty coal, or have them stitch to clean burning natural gas, and this week the head of the EPA announced he was suspending the new rules that would lower the coal-fired plants harmful emissions. He announced “The War on Coal is over!” Yes, you guessed it: it’s all about making a buck now and facing the consequences later. What we should be doing is trying to eliminate the use of dirty coal as an electrical generating fuel, and not trying to dodge regulations that would solve the problem, and for God’s sake don’t open National Forests for dirty coal mining as has been proposed.
Okay, I know most of us could care less about what mercury will do to us, since we’re primarily adults passed the child bearing age, but what about the young, country girl in Bradley County who knows nothing about mercury in the fish that she is eating several times a week while she’s pregnant? Consider this: If she hadn’t eaten the mercury contaminated fish, her son or daughter might have become doctor or an attorney, but instead his lower I Q. will turn him into a high school dropout. Shouldn’t we do something to prevent that from happening? What if that child was your grandchild?
Arkansas Department of Health: Fish Notice: Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women, Women Planning to be Pregnant, and Children under 7 Years of Age–General Public 1. Felsenthal Wildlife Refuge – including the Saline River up to Stillions Bridge (Union, Bradley, Ashley Counties) Should not eat largemouth bass (13 inches or longer), flathead or blue catfish, pickerel, gar, bowfin or drum from this refuge. Should not eat flathead catfish, gar, bowfin, drum, pickerel or largemouth bass (16 inches in length or longer). No more than 2 meals per month of blue catfish and largemouth bass (13-16 inches in length) should be eaten from this refuge. 2. Ouachita River – from Camden to the north border of the Felsenthal Wildlife Refuge to include all associated ox-bow lakes, backwater and overflow lakes and barrow ditches (Union, Ouachita, and Calhoun Counties) Should not eat largemouth bass, flathead catfish, pickerel, gar or bowfin from this river. Should not eat largemouth bass, flathead catfish, pickerel, gar or bowfin from this river….