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Green Party calls ‘clean coal’ myth a major threat to public health, citing study

Poisons released from mining, high Appalachian illness and mortality rates, and mountain removal’s destruction of landscapes: Greens blast concessions to coal industry in the fight against global warming

Green Party activists and leaders today called coal a threat to public health and a false alternative to petroleum energy in the effort to fight global warming.

The Green Party cited “Mortality in Appalachian Coal Mining Regions: The Value of Statistical Life Lost,” a study published in the July-August issue of Public Health Reports (http://www.health.wvu.edu/newsreleases/news-details.aspx?ID=1217), which reports that, while coal mining contributed about $8 billion to the economies of Appalachian states, the costs of reduced life-spans associated with coal mining were $17 billion to $84.5 billion.

“Coal mining doesn’t only destroy the landscape, it kills people,” said the Treasurer of the Green Party of the United States.  “There is no such thing as clean coal.  President Obama is repeating a lie designed by the coal industry to maintain its profit margins and to continue turning states like West Virginia into a poisonous wasteland covered with giant craters.”

The Green Party has demanded a halt to mountaintop-removal operations, which have destroyed over 500 mountains in West Virginia, filled in river valleys, and caused toxins to be dumped into freshwater streams and rivers.  The Public Health Reports studied offered evidence that the coal industry is causing sickness and early death not just among coalminers but among populations living near mines, processing plants, and transportation centers.  The combination of these effects has elevated poverty rates in Appalachian states.

During the Green Party’s 2009 Annual National Meeting in Durham, North Carolina, Jesse Johnson of the West Virginia Mountain Party (affiliated with the Green Party) spoke on the catastrophic effects of mountaintop removal.  Mr. Johnson’s speech was followed by a screening of the new documentary ‘Coal Country: Rising Up Against Mountaintop Removal Mining’ (http://www.coalcountrythemovie.com), which he helped produce.  (See also “Coal Country Premiere: Big Coal Lobby Does Not Want You to See This Powerful New Film” by Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post, July 3, 2009 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-biggers/icoal-countryi-premiere-b_b_225341.html).

Mr. Johnson, currently on a speaking tour to promote the documentary, has called West Virginia the “epicenter of global warming” in the US and stresses that “Mountaintop removal is ground zero for global climate change and water depletion for more than half of the US population.”

Greens noted that deals for huge surface-mining operations in the Illinois Basin (Armstrong Coal Co.) and in Bear Run, Indiana (Peabody Energy Corp.) will fire up the US’s densest cluster of aging plants (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gyfwiDRoVhwDrDCP–iSJjxuaNJwD99OVGNO1).  The immediate boost to the economy may soon be offset by the environmentally harmful effects of coal mining, said Greens, who emphasized that the toxins “scrubbed” off of coal don’t simply disappear.

The Green Party has called the myth of clean coal and nuclear energy and cap-and-trade schemes dangerous distractions and impediments to the real steps necessary to curb global warming.  The party criticized a recently passed US House energy bill (HR 2454) for enacting a cap-and-trade system, severely inadequate emissions caps, and and provisions that restrict legal efforts to block coal projects, noting that the legislation will lead to more coal use in 2020 than in 2005 (http://www.gp.org/press/pr-national.php?ID=235) and that it increases incentives to keep some of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants in operation.

We need a sustained national and international effort to defeat global warming that has the kind of unity, determination, and sober planning that led the Allies to defeat our enemies in World War II.  Without such an effort, we are complicit in the threat to civilization and to hundreds of millions of human lives.  Making concessions for the sake of polluters’ profits is like negotiating trade with Germany and Japan in the middle of the war.


“In Appalachia, Coal Mining Costs $9-$76 Billion More Per Year Than It Pulls In, Claims Study”
By Matthew McDermott, TreeHugger, July 13, 2009

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