Mountaintop Advocates Open New Front in Fight Against Coal
BOONE, NC and WASHINGTON, DC – Advocates for the mountains and coalfield residents today opened a new front in the fight against destructive coal mining, filing suit in Washington, D.C. District Court to stop federal investment in new power plants that would enshrine coal for another generation.
The suit, filed by the North Carolina-based Appalachian Voices and Canary Coalition, states that the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of subsidizing coal plants without knowing the true environmental costs – including impacts of ultra-destructive mountaintop removal coal mining. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 included $1.65 billion in tax incentives for new coal plants, $1 billion of which has been allocated to nine projects around the country.
“The fact is that there’s no such thing as clean coal as long as our mountains are getting clear-cut, blown up and bulldozed down,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Executive Director of Appalachian Voices. “Right now, the electricity that powers your home may well come from mountaintop removal coal. We need fewer coal plants, not more.”
Mountaintop removal coal mining is an extremely destructive form of strip mining found throughout Appalachia, with some mines as big as the island of Manhattan. Coalfield residents say that it tears apart communities, poisons water supplies, pollutes the air and destroys our nation’s natural heritage – while only making the climate crisis worse.
“Members of the Canary Coalition and all people who live, work or vacation in western North Carolina are feeling the impact of existing coal-burning power plants on our health and the environment,” said Avram Friedman, Executive Director of the Canary Coalition. “Asthma related to ozone pollution is the largest cause of absenteeism in our public schools. Emphysema plagues the elderly in this region. Heart and lung disease related to fine particulate sulfur dioxide has been documented by the American Lung Association. We are threatened by tropical diseases migrating north due to global warming caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The status quo of air quality in western North Carolina is unacceptable. Building and operating a new coal-burning power plant such as Duke Energy’s planned expansion at Cliffside is unacceptable.”
Of the nine experimental coal facilities that have received tax incentives, none have conducted an environmental impact assessment (EIA) looking at the impact of coal on the environment – as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The nine facilities include a Duke Energy projects in Edwardsport, IN and in Rutherford and Cleveland Counties, NC; a Mississippi Power Company project; an E.ON U.S. & Louisville Gas and Electric project in Bedford, KY; a Carson Hydrogen Power project in Carson, CA; a TX Energy project in Longview, TX; a Tampa Electric project in Polk County, FL (that is currently delayed); and two anonymous coal gasification projects.
The effort to end mountaintop removal has been gaining steam over the past year. As of today, the leading Congressional plan to end the practice has 129 co-sponsors – dozens more than last Congress, and only halfway through this session.