"Santee Cooper nixes plan for coal plant"

J.P. Leous

Is this a sign of things to come? Is the clean energy revolution taking root even as Dirty Coal tries to scare the daylights out of us by spending millions on astroturfing and a fear campaign?

South Carolina utility, Santee Cooper, just nixed plans for a new coal plant in Florence County, S.C. — citing pending climate and energy legislation as playing a large role in their decision. Whether or not you enjoy recreating on the Great Pee Dee River (the primary source of water for this would-be plant), you’ll breathe a little easier now that the $2.2 billion facility won’t spew out millions of tons of carbon pollution, mercury, sulfur and other dangerous toxins that can wreak havoc on human health.

But there’s more work to be done. About a third of our nation’s carbon-dioxide emissions (a chief greenhouse gas) come from coal plants — and most of the electricity from coal is generated in old plants built before 1980. Long story short, we are getting far too much of our electricity from an outdated and unhealthy fuel that harms communities and wildlands at nearly every step of its lifecycle. And don’t think for a second that new coal plants will bring us the change we need.

Ripping coal from the ground by strip mining and mountain top removal destroys huge tracks of natural areas (think habitat). Slurry wastes directly contribute to pollution in ecosystems that people rely on. Moving coal from pit to plant and burning coal cause air and water pollution, not to mention the impacts on wildlife.

Like factoids? Here are two about the industry that emits more global warming pollution than any other human activity to share with friends at your next barbecue:

  • The government estimates that at current extraction rates, mountain top removal will destroy over 1 million acres in Appalachia in the next 10 years. (NOT good news if you are of the many folks who enjoy this beautiful part of the country or rely on it for clean water.)
  • Roughly 26% of our country’s energy-related methane emissions come from coal mining. Methane has more than 20 times the global warming impact as carbon dioxide.

So don’t buy the coal industry’s propaganda on “clean coal” because there’s no such thing!

This leaves me wondering, what would a $2.2 billion energy efficiency program look like? Less demand for dirty coal, new jobs ranging from construction to engineering, lower utility bills for home-owners and businesses, and better air and water quality? Seems like a good deal. Oh, AND significantly less global warming pollution. What’s not to like?