Power Past Coal

Authors: Sandra Diaz Sandra Diaz a Green For All Academy Fellow, guest blogs for the GreenForAll.org. On December 22nd, at 12:30 am, a containment wall holding back 50 years worth of toxic coal ash gave way into the Emory River creating a 20 foot tall tsunami of waste and water that proceeded to cover 400 acres of land, ruining homes and permanently changing the lives of residents of Harriman, TN forever.

Coal ash waste is not usually part of the conversation when the environmental impacts of coal are discussed. Traditionally, most of the "life cycle of coal" is excluded, with most politicians, environmental groups, and mainstream media focusing on the what comes out of the smokestack. Little attention is paid to where the coal comes from, like mountaintop removal coal mining, or what is left over after the coal is burned. That focus has created stronger laws focusing on decreasing air pollution, by demanding that coal-burning utilities place stronger scrubbers on their operations, thereby making the always dirty coal "somewhat" cleaner to burn. As we all know, once matter is created, it cannot be destroyed. Coal that is burned leaves matter behind. That matter is coal ash. Technology that burns coal "cleaner" only serves to make the waste from that coal dirtier, since now those toxins that would have released into the atmosphere are now concentrated into the coal ash. So, if the mining of coal is dirty, the burning of coal is dirty, and the waste left over from burning and processing coal is dirty, what's the solution? We need to Power Past Coal. We need to expose the truth that coal is dirty and plug into new power. Organizations fighting to defend their land from harmful mining practices, stopping new coal fired power plants, or campaigning for a new energy policy agreed to launch a project together that could bring attention to the urgency of and connections between our efforts – 100 Days of Action: Expose the True Cost of Coal, Plug into New Power. By identifying and publicizing 100 days of independent actions into a narrative to show both the problems and solutions to our energy problems, we raise the profile of and add value to our individual campaigns. The loose structure of this project is based on the philosophy of Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest who wrote, “Groups ranging from ad hoc neighborhood associations to well-funded international organizations are confronting issues like the destruction of the environment…[and] social justice. They share no orthodoxy or unifying ideology... they remain supple enough to coalesce easily into larger networks to achieve their goals. Groups are encouraged to include their action in the 100 Days of Action, as long as the action meets environmental justice and non violence principles and parameters. If you are organizing an event to promote the Green Jobs Act or the Clean Energy Corps, for example, I invite you to join the Power Past Coal Project. Being part of a national project can attract more attention to your individual action. The actions begin Wednesday, January 21st with a national call-in day organized by CLEAN, to promote a clean energy economy, and will continue through April 30th. To learn more, to participate in an action, or add your action to the Power Past Coal Project, please visit www.powerpastcoal.org. You can also email Sierra Murdoch, the coordinator at sierra@powerpastcoal.org. Take action. Tell your story. Join the movement. Sandra Diaz is the national field coordinator for Appalachian Voices, an organization working to protect the natural and cultural heritage of central and southern Appalachia. Appalachian Voices is also part of the Alliance for Appalachia, working to bring a just sustainable future to the region.

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