Most US coal plants are contaminating groundwater with toxins

Most US coal plants are contaminating groundwater with toxins

SOURCE: Inside Climate News and The Guardian DATE: March 4, 2019 SNIP: Almost every coal-fired power plant in the US is contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of toxic pollution, according to the first comprehensive analysis of the consequences of coal ash waste disposal. Of the 265 US power plants that monitor groundwater, 242 have reported unsafe levels of at least one pollutant derived from coal ash, which is the remnants of coal after it is burned for energy. More than half such facilities report unsafe levels of arsenic, a carcinogen linked to multiple types of cancer, with 60% finding elevated lithium, which is associated with neurological damage. In all, nine out of every 10 coal plants with reportable data have tainted nearby groundwater with at least one coal ash pollutant, with a majority having unsafe levels of at least four different toxins. “The pollution is basically everywhere you look,” said Abel Russ, attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), which compiled the analysis based on reports issued by individual power plants. American coal plants produce about 100m tons of coal ash each year, with at least 2bn tons stored in pits of varying quality. Most coal ash pits are ageing and not lined with a protective substance that would prevent the ash seeping into streams and rivers. A stew of pollutants emanate from coal ash, including cadmium, cobalt, chromium and lead, as well as arsenic and lithium. These toxins are linked to a range of health conditions, including cancers, kidney damage and developmental...
Texas coal power plants leaching toxic pollutants into groundwater

Texas coal power plants leaching toxic pollutants into groundwater

SOURCE: Texas Tribune DATE: January 17, 2019 SNIP: As the Trump administration considers weakening Obama-era safeguards for the disposal of toxic coal waste, a new report shows that groundwater near all of Texas’ 16 monitored coal-fired power plants is contaminated with pollutants — including known carcinogens — linked to so-called coal ash. The report found that the groundwater around coal-fired plants across the state contain levels of pollutants like arsenic, boron, cobalt or lithium that would make it unsafe for human consumption. It also found that almost none of the impoundments where plants dispose of spent coal are lined properly to prevent leakage — one of the requirements of the 2015 Coal Ash Rule. “We found contamination everywhere we looked, poisoning groundwater aquifers and recreational fishing spots across the state,” said EIP attorney Abel Russ, an author of the report. “This confirms that dumping large volumes of toxic waste in poorly-lined pits is a terrible idea.” Coal ash is produced when plants burn coal to produce electricity. One of the largest sources of industrial waste in the United States, it contains contaminants like mercury, cadmium and arsenic, according to the...
How China’s Big Overseas Initiative Threatens Global Climate Progress

How China’s Big Overseas Initiative Threatens Global Climate Progress

SOURCE: e360 DATE: January 3, 2019 SNIP: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), launched by President Xi Jinping in 2013, has been described as the most ambitious infrastructure project in history. It is a plan to finance and build roads, railways, bridges, ports, and industrial parks abroad, beginning with China’s neighbors in Central, South, and Southeast Asia and eventually reaching Western Europe and across the Pacific to Latin America. The more than 70 countries that have formally signed up to participate account for two-thirds of the world’s population, 30 percent of global GDP, and an estimated 75 percent of known energy reserves. Just building the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will absorb massive amounts of concrete, steel, and chemicals, creating new power stations, mines, roads, railways, airports, and container ports, many in countries with poor environmental oversight. But more worrying still is the vision of industrial development to follow, and the energy that is planned to fuel it. While China has imposed a cap on coal consumption at home, its coal and energy companies are on a building spree overseas. Chinese companies are involved in at least 240 coal projects in 25 of the Belt and Road countries, including in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Serbia, Kenya, Ghana, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. China is also financing about half of proposed new coal capacity in Egypt, Tanzania, and Zambia. The Belt and Road Initiative threatens to lock China’s partners into the same high-emission development that China is now trying to exit. So far, the majority of BRI projects are energy-related: Since 2000, Chinese-led policy banks have invested...
E.P.A. Will Ease Path to New Coal Plants

E.P.A. Will Ease Path to New Coal Plants

SOURCE: NYTimes and NPR DATE: December 6, 2018 SNIP: The Trump administration plans to eliminate an Obama-era requirement that new coal-fired power plants have expensive technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions. This latest administration effort to boost fossil fuel industries comes as leaders from nearly 200 countries are meeting in Poland to discuss how to keep greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere. And amid reports that CO2 emissions are rising again, as well as the administration’s own report that climate change is causing more severe weather more frequently and could eventually hurt the U.S. economy. “This says we’re expecting more coal-fired power plants in the future, and we’re going to make it easier to get there,” said Richard J. Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard University. “This is just one more foolhardy move by a misguided administration that will be judged harshly by future generations,” said David Doniger, senior strategic director of the Climate & Clean Energy program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Under the Trump administration’s rule, carbon dioxide emissions from new coal plants would not be allowed to exceed 1,900 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity, according to two people knowledgeable about the proposal. That’s compared to the Obama rule, which limited emissions to 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide per...
What Terrible Injustices Are Hiding Behind American Energy Habits?

What Terrible Injustices Are Hiding Behind American Energy Habits?

SOURCE: DeSmogBlog DATE: November 16, 2018 SNIP: When someone charges a cellphone or flips on the lights, what costs are felt by the far-off communities that produced the coal or gas powering that home? What happens to those same communities when a utility decides to switch from coal power to natural gas? And what keeps these impacts of American energy habits hidden from view? Reliance on coal mining in La Guajira to turn on the lights in Massachusetts supported a mine that over more than three decades has forcibly displaced several nearby indigenous communities and tried to suppress, with bloody results, union activity. The mine’s operations have been linked to widespread pollution from coal dust and the destruction of fishing and hunting grounds, leaving La Guajira plagued by food insecurity. “Some villages were bulldozed, communities forcibly removed, like the Afro-Colombian community of Tabaco,” said Noel Healy from Salem State University in Massachusetts, who has conducted research surrounding the Cerrejón mine. “Others were displaced via the ‘slow violence’ of contaminated farmland and drinking water.” “Communities live in fear,” he added. “We witnessed high levels of community trauma, anxiety, and stress.” In the communities Healy interviewed, children reportedly suffer from respiratory illnesses and some people are afraid to drink the water. “Mining operations have destroyed the social and cultural fabric of communities within the region, traditional migration routes have been cut off, and communities lost access to sacred sites and ancestral grounds,” Healy said. “Most of us like to think of ourselves as good people who would not deliberately harm someone or take advantage of someone,” Aviva Chomsky, professor, and activist...