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Death From a Distance

You see, some older coal-fired power plants don’t have the technology needed to burn better, cleaner coal so they produce their power using dirty, high-sulfur coal. In Michigan, a new study found that accounts for about 180 deaths per year.

The study found that the old coal plants are responsible for 180 premature deaths in Michigan each year as well as approximately 230 hospital admissions or Emergency Room visits and 68,000 asthma attacks.

The report also found that health impacts from the particulate emissions at Michigan power plants extend as far east as the Atlantic Ocean and as far west as Colorado.

Now, where would someone like, say Detroit Edison, get all that crappy, dirty-burning coal that is killing and maiming hundreds of Michiganders every year? Ummm… that would be Montana. Most of our coal isn’t very good quality and since we don’t want to burn the ugly stuff here, we export about 90-95% of the coal we mine in Montana to northern tier states, like Michigan. If we mine more dirty coal from someplace like, say Otter Creek, we may have to send the surplus to China because Montana already has pretty much got a lock on the high-polluting coal market in the U.S.

The EPA is about to crack down on some of these high polluting coal plants, which will further limit the U.S. market for Montana coal.

One of the rules, expected in final form as early as Wednesday, would force states in the eastern half of the country to reduce pollutants that travel hundreds of miles to create dangerously bad air days in other states. The other rule, due in November and the subject of much wrangling, will be the first national requirement to reduce mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

And just so we don’t forget to tie our dirty coal to the Flathead lake trout situation;

There are 84 hazardous air pollutants from power plants, including acid gases, dioxins, lead and other metals, and mercury. Many are carcinogens. Many also are linked to childhood developmental problems. The best-known is mercury.

Mercury settles in water and accumulates in fish. Ingesting it can cause developmental birth defects and damage a child’s memory and ability to learn. Mercury also damages the kidneys and liver.

The state of Montana recommends that you don’t eat larger Flathead Lake lake trout. They have such high levels of mercury, PCBs and other pollutants that the fish are toxic to pregnant women and small children. The Colstrip power plant is one of the worst pollution offenders in the nation. You don’t have to live in Michigan to be affected by the burning of Montana coal.

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2 Responses

  1. Montana subbituminous coal has a relatively low BTU value, so you end up with more ash per unit of generated energy than with, say, eastern bituminous coal. It is NOT high in sulfur – that’s eastern coal. Mercury and carbon dioxide are the big concerns. Oh, and all the pollution/disruption concommitant on transporting all that mass to midwestern power plants.

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