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'Coal Blooded': New Report Slams Coal Plants for Poisoning Communities

Coal plant owners make billions, leave low-income and communities of color toxic

Common Dreams staff

Coal plants in the U.S. are "killing low-income communities and communities of color," according to a new report, "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People."

The report released Thursday from the NAACP and justice allies looks at 378 sulfur dioxide (SO2)- and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx)-spewing coal-fired power plants across the U.S. It shows how these plants are disproportionately affecting communities of color and are "single-handedly responsible for a large proportion of toxic emissions that directly poison local communities in the United States." The report states that of the six million Americans living near coal plants, whose toxic emissions have been linked to asthma attacks, lung inflammation, chronic bronchitis, irregular heart conditions, and birth defects,  39% are people of color.

The report ranks "Environmental Justice Offenders," and roughly two million Americans live within three miles of one of 12 worst offenders, with the average per capita income of these nearby residents $14,626, compared with the U.S. average of $21,587. "Approximately 76 percent of these nearby residents are people of color," the report states.

“Coal pollution is literally killing low-income communities and communities of color,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, who added that it is an issue of environmental justice.

“There is no disputing the urgency of this issue. Environmental justice is a civil and human rights issue when our children are getting sick, our grandparents are dying early, and mothers and fathers are missing work,” stated Jealous.

Despite the havoc these plants are wreaking up on communities and the climate, the companies that own them are reaping billions in profit.

Duke Energy, for example, owner of the eighth-worst Environmental Justice Offender according to the report -- the R. Gallagher Power Plant in Albany, Indiana -- earned $13.8 billion in operating revenues from their electric and gas operations in 2010.

For true climate justice, for the surrounding communities as well as the planet, what is needed is a shift towards clean energy.

“Old, dirty coal plants are poisoning our environment, and emissions controls are simply not sufficient. We need to transition from coal and replace plants with profitable energy efficiency initiatives and clean energy alternatives," says Jacqueline Patterson, NAACP director of Climate Justice Programs.

Read the whole report here (pdf).

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