Coal pollution killing poor, people of color, NAACP charges


America is addicted to coal, and that addiction is killing poor people and people of color, according to a new report published by the NAACP and other environmental justice organizations. 

According to the report, emissions from 431 coal plants across the country cause 30,000 premature deaths and tens of thousands incidents of chronic respiratory health problems like asthma, bronchitis and lung cancer each year. According to the study, titled "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People," Sulfur dioxide (SO2)  and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx), coal plants produce nearly all of the SO2 and fine particle pollution in the U.S.

Coal-powered plants produce about 44 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. Ten states use about half of the total amount of coal-fired electricity produced in the whole country.

More than 8 million people live within three miles of a coal power plant, and those people are disproportionately poor or people of color. The average per capita income of those people total less than $19,000, substantially lower than the national average. About 3 million are people of color, the report found.

The report also revealed the locations of the worst coal plants in the countries. These "failing plants" produce the most pollution and impact the largest number of poor and people of color.

To be precise, 90 "failing plants" across the country produced a quarter of SO2 and one-fifth of NOx emissions in the entire country. More than half of the 4.7 million people who live near these plants are people of color.

Of the 90 "failing plants," the report scrutinizes the 12 worst offenders. Three are owned by Edison International and are located in Illinois. PSEG owns two of the worst offenders in Connecticut and New Jersey. Duke Energy, DTE Energy, and Dominion are among the companies whose plants create the greatest harm.

Detroit, Michigan is host to one of the worst pollution-producing plants in the country. The River Rouge Power Plant (DTE Energy), located on the southwest edge of the city produces more than 13,000 tons of SO2 and 4,658 tons of NOx each year.

The plant is just five miles from downtown Detroit and just across the Rouge River from the only major Latino district in the city, known as "Mexican Town."

Of the residents who live within three miles of the River Rouge plant, more than 65 percent are African Americans and Latinos. Average income for people living in the area is just over $13,000 each year. The study attributed 44 premature deaths and hundreds of asthma attacks each year to the pollution from just this one plant.

Another deadly culprit is the Hammond, Indiana plant owned by Dominion. Located on outskirts of Chicago, this plant emits almost 17,000 tons of SO2 and NOx pollution. Of the people living within three miles of the plant, almost 80 percent are African Americans and Latinos.

In that same corridor along the southern edge of Lake Michigan between Chicago and the Michigan border are six other coal-fired power plants that contribute to the poor health and premature deaths of mostly poor communities of color.

The authors of the report called for immediately closing the 90 "failing plants." While they total about 20 percent of the coal-fired plants in the country, they produce less than 10 percent of its electricity.

In addition, closing those plants would reduce the number of people living within three miles of a coal-fired plant by 58 percent and reduce the number of emergency room visits, deaths and chronic illnesses by thousands each year.

Increased environmental protections  and subsidies for clean energy alternatives on the federal level are among the ways to reduce pollution.

Above all, however, local communities should hold local and state elected officials as well as energy companies accountable.

"Community organizations must engage directly with plant owners to advocate for their rights to clean air and negotiate regarding plant closure and development of alternative electricity generating and revenue generating industries," the report concluded.

Photo: Michigan City, In., power-generating station. Lotzman Katzman/ cc by 2.0/ Flickr 



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  • Really necessary article,which points to the new organic revolution that will end pollution. It is in this sense that the new society will rise, and cause liberation from aggressive wars and pollution that kills hundreds of thousands yearly.

    Coal, gas, oil and atomic energy is destroying the planets livability, and therefore the last forty-eight years of ecological green revolution has brought into being the hi and low tech tools to put into being wind, tidal and solar power which transforms to electricity and is more power than can be used by society. No more blackouts.

    This non-pollution solultion is given freely in natures kinder laws and provides work for all and forever more. Black lung has been killing coal miners for thousands of years and there in reality is no clean coal. So re-tooling to solar energy with solar panels on each and every roof in the world will end the disease, and death that coal really does to the miners, but also to the whole population globally as it burns out the oxygen and replaces it with CO2, and we cannot live on CO2.

    The first industrial revolution has already done that by burning out 38% of the globes oxygen to carbon-dioxide. It is long overdue therefore that the miners and fellow workers globally can 'walk and mine the sun' and end the early death that the workers have experienced from the fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil, not to mention the atmosphere poisoning by radiation from each and every atomic nuclear fission plant on the planet (500).

    There is no clean atmosphere from burning this kind of fuel. Electricity from wind, tidal, and solar power would drop the CO2 burn-out by 97%, and that would allow mother nature to take out the carbon for cell-building, and replace clean oxygen again to the atmosphere.

    Presently the overwhelming burn of fossil fuels does not allow nature to replace the oxygen, and that means there is now in place the process of inevitable asphixyation of all oxygen breathing beings on the planet taking place. Liberation is with the renewables, and it must be done sooner rather than later.

    Greenpeace says that process ought to have occured by the end of the eighties of last century and that we are already late in applying the new technology for societies liberation.

    Viva socialist liberation. End pollution wars, not endless wars for more and more pollution.

    Posted by Union Jack, 07/25/2011 1:43pm (5 years ago)

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