Recently, the Trump administration eased restrictions on toxic heavy metal pollution from coal fired power plants (1). This is the administration’s latest attempt to bolster a dying industry. Renewables long ago proved to be more cost effective than coal. Many utility companies are phasing out coal power plants because they can no longer compete.
By EPA estimates, discharges from steam-based power plants are the nation’s third-largest toxic wastewater producer. Coal plant wastewater can contain mercury, lead and arsenic, toxins causing neurological and developmental damage, harm in utero, internal organs and cancer. The burning of coal also releases airborne toxins: mercury, lead, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates. These result in asthma and breathing difficulties, heart problems, cancer, brain damage, neurological disorders, and premature death. Governments have a responsibility to keep their citizen’s safe and free from harm. The easing of these restrictions does just the opposite.
The coal industry is on life support. The industry receives billions of dollars in subsidies every year. Attempts to further bolster it are short sighted, pointless and fiscally irresponsible. The COVID crisis has left jobs in short supply, and the economy is teetering on the brink. The time, attention, and costs of propping up this decaying industry can be better spent.
We should retrain coal workers and help them transition to better, safer jobs. Nobody ever got black lung disease from installing a solar panel. We should be investing in renewable energy. And we should be fighting climate change. Not making it worse.
Extreme weather events fueled by a warming planet are on the rise. With forest fires and heat waves scorching the western US, 2020 on course to be one of the hottest years of all time and hurricanes and derechos battering the south and Midwest no one is really safe from climate change anymore.
Over 80 percent of Americans believe the earth is warming and that human activity is the major cause. It’s time to say no to coal (and all fossil fuels) and yes to renewables. It’s time to step up and demand action on climate change from our elected leaders. And if they won’t listen, it’s time to vote for someone who will.