(Photo of the Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972.)
No doubt you've heard about the 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash and sludge dumped on Eastern Tennessee on Dec 22 (Bloomberg, Associated Press, NYTimes). Merry Christmas, Tennesseeans, the arsenic levels of your local water sources are anywhere from 35-300 times the allowable rate. From the Huffington Post article just linked:
"I've never seen levels this high," said Dr. Shea Tuberty, Assistant Professor of Biology at the Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Lab at Appalachian State University. "These levels would knock out fish reproduction ... the ecosystems around Kingston and Harriman are going to be in trouble ... maybe for generations."
The disaster in Tennessee, which TVA is apparently newspeaking as an "ash slide", is just another example of why coal-fired power plants are a persistent threat to public and ecosystem health; too risky as energy sources; and an unwanted source of toxic emissions, like mercury.
In North Carolina, Duke Energy operates 10 coal ash basins, 4 of which are labeled "high hazard" by the state (labels are based on environmental damage should the containment dikes fail, as explained in this excellent report by the Charlotte Observer). We know the degredation to our countryside, our air, and our health, and yet we are building another coal-unit at an estimated ratepayer/taxpayer expense upwards of $2,000,000,000.
There are many, many reasons to move away from coal (how about mountain-top removal coal mining? or climate change?) But, an important question, one of common sense, is this: why handcuff ourselves to an outdated energy source, one that is a terrible, foreseeable waste of state funds, especially when all that money could go towards renewable sources?
The Sierra Club has been opposed to Cliffside expansion since day one. Want to tell the incoming Perdue Administration how you feel about all this? At one of the following public hearings, voice your disapproval and state that Cliffside will not be a "minor" source of toxic emissions:
- 6 p.m. Jan. 22 at Statesville Senior High School, 474 N. Center St. in Statesville.
- An initial hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Jan. 15 in Forest City, near the plant, at Chase High School, 1603 Chase High School Road.