Manataka American Indian Council








Coal Sludge Flood in Tennessee

By Brent Blackwelder, President, Friends of the Earth


A massive coal sludge spill inundating Eastern Tennessee is the latest proof of coal's toxicity.

In December 2008, a large swath of Tennessee was flooded with toxic coal ash when a containment pond ruptured. The massive spill -- bigger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska -- covered hundreds of acres of land, knocking homes off of their foundations and flowing into streams and the Clinch and Tennessee rivers. The spill is killing wildlife and poses long-term threats to human health and the environment. (to view the devastation firsthand, from our ally, Appalachian Voices).

This morning's New York Times expands on the story with a front-page report that reveals the existence of more than a thousand similar dumps in 46 states, many of which are unmonitored and unregulated. Coal ash, a toxic byproduct created when we burn coal to create electricity, contains heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium, which threaten water supplies and human health. And even without disasters like the one in Tennessee, coal ash is causing problems: groundwater at 63 sites around the country has already been contaminated by these dumps, according to the EPA.

Coal is dirtiest form of energy there is -- a fact that's underscored by the disaster in Tennessee.  And there is only one solution. We must transition away from our use of coal. Will you help us send this message to Congress today?

In addition to putting toxins that cause thousands of deaths into our air and water, coal use is the leading cause of global warming. Top NASA climatologist James Hansen has called for a ban on the construction of new coal power plants, and says that within the next couple of decades, "all coal burning power plants that don't capture [carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas] will have to be bulldozed" to avoid catastrophic changes to our climate.

Too many members of Congress still don't understand how serious this problem is. They need to hear from you, their constituents, that coal is public enemy number one. A ban on new coal-fired power plants is needed immediately, and we must rapidly phase out existing coal facilities and replace them with clean energy alternatives and energy efficiency.

Please join me and Friends of the Earth activists around the country in sending this message to Congress today.





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