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CONTACT: Potomac Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance
Robin Broder, Director of Operations, Potomac Riverkeeper
Clean Coal? National Campaign Aims to Get Coal Industry to Come Clean
WASHINGTON - February 24 - Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Chairman of Waterkeeper Alliance, announced today the launch of the group's first national anti-coal campaign. Called "The Dirty Lie," the campaign is intended to create broader awareness of the destructiveness of coal-from its role in propping up an antiquated fossil-fuel-based economy to its adverse effects on the environment and the health of millions of Americans-and, ultimately, to bring about a change in national energy policy. "Simply stated, clean coal is a dirty lie," Kennedy said. "You don't have to live in the coalfields or in the shadow of a coal-fired power plant to be affected by this filthy industry. Coal causes acid rain, pollutes our water and food chain with toxic mercury, destroys communities, and is grossly accelerating climate change."
People living in the Potomac and Shenandoah watersheds are no strangers to the adverse affects of coal. Last year, Potomac Riverkeeper took action against a fly ash facility that was discharging toxic pollution into the largest hardwood swamp in Maryland, the Zekiah Swamp. The facility, owned and operated by Mirant Mid-Atlantic, LLP, was discharging selenium, cadmium and other toxic pollutants.
"The Zekiah Swamp has been described by the Smithsonian Institute as one of the most important ecological areas on the East Coast, and yet no one is protecting it" said Ed Merrifield, the Potomac Riverkeeper.
Within weeks, Maryland's Attorney General took action. He filed a complaint against Mirant and sought civil penalties of up to 126 million dollars as well as injunctive relief.
Another Mirant-owned plant, in Alexandria, VA, is contributing to our mounting coal problem in a different way. The plant is linked to no less than five mountain top removal mines in Virginia and West Virginia. This information is readily available to people living around the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, as people living all over the country, by clicking here.
Waterkeeper programs in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, and West Virginia have been fighting the coal industry for years. Now, Potomac Riverkeeper and Shenandoah Riverkeeper have joined the struggle.
"Once they learn the facts," Kennedy said, "most Americans will demand policies that protect our water and our health and promote an economy built on cleaner, more sustainable energy sources." Information on the campaign and a petition to sign are available here.
The campaign is reaching beyond the traditional environmental community by using online viral marketing techniques, with the goal of galvanizing broad popular interest via the web. The campaign's hub is a website that will house video and editorial content and provide visitors with interactive tools to become anti-coal activists.
Every year, U.S. coal-fired power plants release 48 tons of the neurotoxin mercury into the environment, poisoning hundreds of square miles of waterways. And mercury doesn't just poison ecosystems; it also poisons pregnant women and their babies. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that one of every six women of childbearing age now has unsafe mercury levels in her blood and, potentially, breast milk, putting more than 410,000 American children born each year at high risk for neurological damage and a grim inventory of illnesses.
And while coal-fired power plants generate about half of America's electricity, they contribute 80 percent of the total greenhouse gases that result from electricity production. Ocean-level rise and other effects of global warming threaten barrier islands and coastal ecosystems and other irreplaceable wild areas.
"We're fighting a powerful industry with deep pockets and an absolute determination to win," Kennedy said, "but thanks to Waterkeeper Alliance's thousands of dedicated local activists, the campaign's goal is no less than to bring about a fundamental shift in national energy policy."