Tag Archives: Air pollution

Coal Pollution Effects on Human Health

Coal fired power plants are the single largest source of pollution in any country. http://saferenvironment.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/coal-fired-power-plants-and-pollution/

Coal fired power plants are the single largest source of pollution in any country.

Coal-fired power plant emissions contribute to global warming, ozone smog, acid rain, regional haze, and – perhaps most consequential of all from a public health standpoint- fine particle pollution. Emissions from the U.S. power sector cause tens of thousands of premature deaths each year, and hundreds of thousands of heart attacks, asthma attacks, hospital admissions, and lost workdays. So why are these power plants still up and running, and more importantly, why are there still planned developments of new plants?

To simplify things, public health concerns have focused, for at least the last decade, on the role of very small airborne particles in causing or contributing to various forms of respiratory and cardiopulmonary ailments and increasing the risk of premature death. These fine particles are particularly dangerous because they can bypass your body’s defensive mechanisms and become lodged deep inside your lungs. In fact, research also indicates that short-term exposures to fine particle pollution is linked to cardiac effects, including increased risk of heart attack. Meanwhile, long-term exposure to fine particle pollution has been shown to increase the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory diseases and lung cancer, resulting in shorter life-expectancy for people living in the most polluted cities. So who are the people that are most likely to be exposed to these health risks? In general, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in the areas downwind of multiple power plants. And unfortunately, persistent elevated levels of fine particle pollution are common across wide areas of the U.S., mainly in the east.

The adverse effects, including abnormally high levels of mortality, occur even at low ambient concentrations of fine particles—suggesting there is no “safe” threshold for this type of pollution. Since most fine particle-related deaths are thought to occur within a year or two of exposure, reducing power plant pollution will have almost immediate benefits. Below is a very nice table that I found from Physicians for Social Responsibility, outlining various diseases/conditions connected to coal pollutants.

Coal Pollution vs human Health

As it stands, we are at a turning point for determining the U.S.’s future energy policies. The health consequences tied to coal production are vast and have major impacts. We need to address the issue of coal-fired energy production, and we need to address it now. There should be NO new construction of coal fired power plants, and we must initiate plans to retire as many coal plants as possible that are currently in production.

Finally, as a nation, we must develop our capacity to produce energy from clean, safe, renewable sources in order to phase out the existing coal plants without compromising the ability to meet the nations energy needs. Instead of investing any more of our money into coal, the U.S. should fund conservation measures, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources such as wind energy and solar power, which don’t have such a negative effect on public health.

Written by: Courtney Dunphy

Rally for Renewables in Austin

SIerra Club members and volunteers outside AUstin CIty Hall on Thursday June 20th.

SIerra Club members and volunteers outside Austin CIty Hall on Thursday June 20th.

Last week, members and volunteers with Sierra Club showed their support at the Rally for Renewables outside of Austin’s City Hall. The event was part of the Beyond Coal Campaign to reduce dependence upon coal burning and increase utilization of wind and solar energy. Why are dirty coal plants a continuing issue in the 21st century? The focus, or heart,  of the rally is to encourage Austin’s mayor and city council to retire the Fayette Power Project and be coal free. The emphasis here is on retire vs selling the plant off and “greenwash” the city into a state of coal free energy. Retiring the plant would ensure the end of the devastating effects the burning of coal from this plant has on our environment. Below are some quick facts to help everyone understand the importance of relieving us of our dependence upon burning coal.

Coal plants are our nation’s top source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Burning coal is also a leading cause of smog, acid rain, and toxic air pollution. These emissions of toxins into our environment leads to various forms of climate change.  Various forms of pollution includes: Mercury, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, and Ash.

Toxic Mercury  is released into our atmosphere and then returns to the surface via rain and enters our streams and rivers. Prolonged exposure to Mercury can lead to numerous neurological and heart damaging conditions. An uncontrolled power plant can emit approximately 170 pounds of Mercury ash per year.

Coal plants are the leading source of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) pollution. An uncontrolled power plant can produce up to 14,000 tons of SO2 per year. SO2 accumulation in the atmosphere causes acid rain which leads to the destruction of crops, forests,  and soils, and acidifies our lakes and streams.

Nitrogen Oxide causes ground level smog. An uncontrolled plant can emit over 10,000 tons of Nitrogen Oxides per year. This pollutant is naturally found in the atmosphere, however, human activities such as agriculture, transportation, and industries have been steadily increasing the amount found in the atmosphere.

U.S. Nitrous Oxide Emissions, By Source:

In the US alone, we produce no less than 140 million tons of coal ash pollution. All of that ash has to go somewhere, and in most cases it is dumped in the backyard of these coal plants. This ash can be put into open-air pits or into man-made ponds. Unregulated dump sites can leach these pollutants into the ground and potentially into our ground water systems, by way of aquifers.

Overall, The Rally for Renewables was a success! Numerous volunteers came out to show their support for the cause. The event lasted for nearly 2 hours with many different community members making appearances. This event, just like any like it, is an important demonstration to our local governments. As citizens of this earth, we have the right to have our voices heard, just as they were last week.

Written by: Courtney Dunphy

SAVE THE DATE: September 29th-30th The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is Back!

Renewable Roundup 2012!

At a Glance…

WHAT?!?!: The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is a sustainability symposium centered around green living, alternative energy education, family festivities, and sustainable lifestyle practices for our future. This event wouldn’t be complete without it’s A-list of Guest Speakers, Hands-on Workshops, Eco-friendly Vendors, Progressive Exhibitors, Tasty Food Demonstrators, and Supportive Sponsors.

WHERE?!?!: Fredricksburg, Texas

WHEN?!?!: The last weekend in September. Saturday September 29th 9:00am – 6:00pm and Sunday September 30th 9:00am- 5:00pm

HOW?!?!: For more information on how to get involved with the Roundup as a either a participant or patron, visit http://theroundup.org/.

WHO?!?!: Everyone and anyone is invited! We encourage all individuals and families to come out to this great event looking to learn about sustainable living practices. This event is proudly brought to you by a joint effort from TREIA, Texas Center for Policy Studies, and The Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter.

Learn How, Here!

In Depth…

DETAILS/ARTICLE: 

Great News!  The annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair will be taking place again this year in the beautiful and historical town Fredericksburg, Texas! Organized by the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association, in collaboration with the Texas Center for Policy Studies and the Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, Renewable Roundup is a collaborative event centered around individuals, organizations, and companies passionate about sustainable living.  The event planning committee is working hard on making this year’s show the best ever. The underlining theme of this weekend event strives to promote cleaner and smarter ways of using our resources while educating the public about “Greener” lifestyles and options. This event serves as both a conference and festival, as it enlightens, entertains, and publicizes those interested in a brighter greener future. We would love to have you at this extraordinary event the 4th weekend in September (Sept. 29 &30). Please check out our website http://www.theroundup.org/ to find out more or contact Event Coordinator Laura Rice at info@theroundup.org.

INVOLVEMENT:

  • Attend!
  • Apply to be a Guest Speaker
  • Host a workshop the Friday before the gates open on Saturday morning
  • Reserve a booth or exhibit space to advertise and or promote a sustainable idea or product
  • Advertise
  • Sponsor the event
  • Volunteer at the event
  • Come to the VIP kick-off party Friday evening

Can’t Wait to See Everyone There! :)

-Danya Gorel Sierra Club Intern

~Special Thanks to Mentor and Conservation Director Cyrus Reed~

Haze, Haze, Go Away!!

Have you ever stepped outside and felt like it was hard to breathe? Or as you entered the city, have noticed a blanket of “fog” covering it? Well what you are feeling and seeing is haze. Haze is caused when sunlight encounters tiny pollution particles in the air. Some light is absorbed by particles. Other light is scattered away before it reaches an observer. More pollutants means more absorption and scattering of light, which reduce the clarity and color of what we see. Haze occurs everywhere but surprisingly, lately the amount of haze has increased particularly at our National Parks such as Big Bend National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains.

Haze causes health problems and degrades visibility in American cities and parks. The majority of Haze comes from coal plants and refineries. These power plants emit huge quantities of pollution into the air creating Haze.

The Clean Air Act requires the State of Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce and eliminate this haze. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule, however Texas’s oldest and dirtiest power plants would be exempted from installing readily available, modern pollution controls under the proposed rule. The EPA’s proposed rule would not only jeopardize the Regional Haze Rule, but it will also continue to put our national parks such as Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains and the health of all Texas at risk of suffering from Haze.

The EPA’s proposed rule is currently on hold and is being reviewed. The Sierra Club’s campaign to “Save Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains” has been putting friendly pressure on the EPA. As part of the campaign the Sierra Club has sent a record number of 7,400 comments to the EPA about this issue. The EPA has said that it will announce its decision on the haze rule in November.

In the meanwhile, the Sierra Club is having a retreat to Big Bend National Park on May 11-13, 2012.  At the retreat, people will be able to see the beauty and treasure of the park while also learning some useful grassroots skills and meeting some other environmental enthusiasts. Everyone is welcome to come! If you are interested or simply have further questions you can email Stephanie Cole at stephanie.cole@sierraclub.org or call (512) 477-1729.

Haze has become a serious issue. With your help we can make sure our health, livelihood, and national parks are protected.

Like the song goes, “Haze, Haze, go away. Please don’t come back another day”

–Lauren Fedele, Sierra Club Intern

“Save Big Bend” Retreat

As you may or may not know, Texas’s iconic and beloved Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains are being obstructed with Haze. You may be wondering, “Who is causing this Haze?” Coal plants and refineries are responsible for this obstruction. Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to reduce and eliminate this haze, however their proposed rule exempts Texas’s oldest and dirtiest power plants from installing readily available, modern pollution controls.

The Sierra Club has collected and sent thousands of comments to the EPA asking  for air pollution safeguards that would reduce haze. The EPA will not announce new haze rules until November, but the Sierra Club is still planning to keep the friendly pressure on the EPA.

You can help us! There are many ways you can help us with this campaign. Probably the funnest way you can help us is by coming on our retreat to Big Bend on May 11-13, 2012.

At the retreat we’ll do the following: 1) Strategize – we need to determine our strategy for convincing EPA to improve the proposed haze safeguard.  Our strategy sessions will include discussions on how we can use the press, social media, and organizing to reach our goals.  2) Training – media, communications, and organizing experts will provide short training sessions to empower us with the tools and knowledge we’ll need to win. In addition, we’ll hear from experienced activists who have been working to reduce air pollution at Big Bend for years. 3) Networking –we’ll provide opportunities for you to get to know the other “Save Big Bend”campaign volunteers.

We definitely need as much support and volunteers as possible if we want to protect our national parks from Haze. If you would like to volunteer and/or join us on our retreat, or if you have any questions, contact Stephanie Cole at  Stephanie.Cole@sierraclub.org or (512) 477-1729.

We hope you can join us!!

- Lauren Fedele, Beyond Coal Sierra Intern