Stop the Coal Rush - Notes from the Rally in Austin

Date 2007/2/19 15:18:38 | Topic: The Editor's Column

It was a cold and wet day, but the south entrance to the capital building in Austin was crowded. Overhead, a plane circled with a banner that read, “Face it. Coal is Filthy.” The irony was not lost on me.

There are certain requirements for a large gathering of progressives, particularly rallies and parades. These include t-shirts with a slogan; a bad folksinger on guitar; at least one person in a bizarre costume and if food is served, a vegetarian entrée. The Stop the Coal Rush Rally had all of the above.

There was one talented folksinger named Bill Oliver, who had the crowd singing along with him and cheering. The chorus he had us singing:

Clean Coal
It’s a Dirty Joke
Don’t make me laugh
Don’t make me choke

Each verse to this song started, "On a bad hair day in Texas…"

This was obviously a reference to our governor, who attempted to fast track 17 new dirty coal plants. Governor Perry was nicknamed "Good Hair" by the late great Molly Ivins for his Ken doll coif.

There were many moving speeches from politicians, students and citizens of the small towns closest to the proposed plant sights. One of the first speeches came from Representative Charles “Doc” Anderson of Waco, who submitted a bill to place a moratorium on all permits for six months. This delay would give those researching the environmental impact enough time to complete their studies.

Jacob Bentliff, a student at the University of Texas, spoke with extraordinary passion. Not only did he explain in a way that all could understand why the coal plants were a bad choice for Texas, he told the crowd what steps they were taking at U.T. to conserve energy and provide clean sources of power. He and the students in his group were leading a effort to get solar panels installed on the roof of every campus building. Jacob’s final warning was "…coal is not the only option, it is the deadliest."

There was one celebrity among the speakers. Annie Nelson, wife of singer Willie Nelson, spoke about their efforts to move the country to biofuel. According to Annie, Texas now has more biodiesel than any other state.

Some of the speakers speculated as to the reasons TXU might have for fast tracking these plants. Theories posed included the possibility that TXU wants to get these plants approved and grandfathered into to any new caps on global warming emissions, reduce the costs by building multiple identical plants, lock out competition by controlling market share and sell of excess capacity a la Enron. It was also pointed out that while coal is the cheapest method for producing energy and natural gas one of the most expensive; TXU having both natural gas plants and coal plants would be able to sell the coal-produced energy at natural gas prices.

Another interesting twist to the story lies in the claim in the TXU commercials that they will be reducing their emissions by 20%. They have yet to explain how these reductions would be achieved. However, it should be pointed out that any reductions made to the emissions from these new plants will be more than offset by the pollutions and emissions from the trains required to move the coal from the mines to the plants. Each plant will require an entire trainload of coal a day.

A group of physicians also spoke about the effect on the health of the citizens downwind of these plants. Risks to health listed included asthma and bronchitis. Deaths related to coal plant pollution for Dallas alone averages to 369 deaths a year. I have been told that if you want to do anything in The Colony, get the kids involved. Children are among the most vulnerable to the pollution produced by coal plants.

Our children are at risk from power plant pollution:

  • Over 25 million children in the U. S. live in counties that violate national air quality standards for the common pollutants ozone, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide;
  • Cases of asthma have rapidly increased, more than doubling in the past two decades. Six percent of U.S. children have asthma;
  • Thirty-five million of our children live within 30 miles of a power plant —a distance within which local communities may reasonably be affected by a power plant’s smoke plume; an estimated 2 million of these children are asthmatic and are particularly susceptible to these pollutants;
  • 72,000 of our schools are within 30 miles of a power plant;
  • Average health risks to children due to exposure to power plant combustion wastes could be up to 10,000 times higher than EPA’s allowable risk levels for cancer and other illnesses.

* Source: Physicians for Social Responsibility

This is not an issue we can afford to ignore. Your health and the health of your children are at risk. Write your state senator and/or state representative. Send a message to the governor and the lieutenant governor that as Jacob Bentliff said, "Coal is not the only option. It is the deadliest."

Keywords: Coal, Power Plants, Clean Air, Demonstrations, TXU, Asthma

This article comes from The Lewisville Texan Journal

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