National Parks threatened

By Katie Easter

Fact—one in three national parks have above standard air pollution.
Fact—there are over 100 new coal fired plants across the country.
Fact—currently 28 new plants are to be developed within 186 miles of ten national parks.

The Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, Mammoth Cave of Kentucky, and the Shenandoah of Virginia are three of the mountains that are already affected according to the National Parks Conservation Association.

The NPCA report, Dark Horizons: 10 National Parks Threatened by New Coal Fired Plants, presents a call to action for all people who enjoy or hope to one day enjoy National Parks.

“The Clean Air Act is supposed to prevent major polluters like coal plants from degrading park air quality…” according to the report, “regulatory changes have been proposed to make it easier to build new coal-fired power plants close to the national parks.”

Over the past 30 years, there have been regulators monitoring spikes in emissions during times of increased energy demands. Regulators monitor for both three and twenty-four hour time increments.

According to the NPCA report, the problems are bigger than just poor visibility—breathing problems, acid rain damage, smoggy skies, poisoned streams, and global warming are a few of the other problems.

The 28 prospective plants will emit 122 million tons of carbon dioxide, 79 thousand tons of sulfur dioxide, 52 thousand tons of nitrogen oxides, and 4 thousand pounds of toxic mercury into the parks.

“Polices of the Clean Air Act are not enforced,” says the report.Changes have been proposed that will provide the “lowest possible degree of protection” and make it easier for coal companies to build closer to national parks.

For individuals to reduce the need for new power plants, the NPCA report states, “if all Americans made a few small changes…replacing old light bulbs with energy efficient ones…driving less, and recycling more.”

Clean Coal Publicity Generates Backlash

Expect to see more “Clean Coal” ads on TV this fall. With the presidential election a few months off, the US coal industry is entering high gear with its $35 million campaign.

The coal industry claims that coal “keeps the lights on” and that new technologies let coal be “carbon neutral.” Environmental groups have pointed out that carbon capture and sequestration technologies are in fact decades away and that renewable energy makes more sense when all costs are taken into account.

The coal industry publicity has generated a backlash, with YouTube parodys and genuine outrage by groups like Physicians for Social Responsibility.

The doctors group was especially angry that the coal industry used child actors in their ads. “To utilize children as a promotional tools for a dirty energy source … is reprehensible.”

Pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants causes an estimated 24,000 deaths each year, the PSR said. Coal plants are also the single largest source of mercury, which causes development disorders in children, the group said. (To see child actors in pro-coal ads, search for

Meanwhile, a new bumper sticker idea is making the rounds in West Virginia: “Wind – Safe, clean, carbon neutral.”

Mine Wars Leader Remembered

Followup to the Spring 2008 Appalachian Voice story “Baseball and Rebellion:” A state historical marker to honor Bill Blizzard and his role in the mine wars of 1921 was unveiled in April by United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts, along with Congressman Nick Rahall of West Virginia and other UMWA officials.

Blizzard led the largest armed rebellion since the Civil War against the coal industry, but refused to fight federal troops. He was acquitted of treason charges in 1922. Blizzard’s son, William C. Blizzard, is seated. Some 200 people were there for the unveiling, but no coal industry executives were able to attend, Publisher Wess Harris said.

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