Michael Berg

Peabody Coal Taken to Task for Making Children Sick

On May 10, 2011, around forty people gathered at the headquarters of the Peabody corporation in downtown St. Louis with a clear message for the company - stop making our children sick with your coal.

Marching in Front of Peabody

The action was spearheaded by Sierra Student Coalition Midwest Regional Organizer Lindsey Berger. It was timed to correspond with the EPA's designation of May as Asthma awareness month and designed to point out the links between coal and health problems.

There is a clear link between pollution from coal plants and asthma. Asthma is the number one reason that children miss school due to illness in the United States of America. Coal pollution causes over $100 billion in health care costs each year, including over 12,000 visits to the emergency room.

The average age of a coal-fired power plant in this country is 44 years old - they are allowed to operate without modern polution controls such as scrubbers and filters. The EPA has a plan to update the Clean Air Act with new health standards, and the coal industry has been pushing back, lobbying the EPA to delay while children are suffering. Peabody alone spent $6.5 million last year lobbying against increased health standards on coal emissions.

The action included speeches by participants. Lindsey Berger that stressed the link between asthma and coal. Adam Hasz pointed out that Peabody CEO Greg Boyce is on the board of trustees, thus compromising the integrity of the university. Patricia Schuba told about the problems the people of Labadie are facing due to their proximity to Missouri's largest coal fired power plant and a plan by Ameren UE to create a giant coal ash pit on the banks of the Missouri River.

All the speeches stressed that we need to replace coal with cleaner sources of power like wind and solar, both for our immediate health and to stop the growing problem of climate change.

After the speeches the participants coughed and coughed until they fell to the ground on the sidewalk and pretended to die from the pollution that Peabody coal produces. Someone outlined the bodies in chalk and then wrote messages in the chalked body outlines.

Very shortly after most participants went across the street, Peabody coal sent two men, escorted by two St. Louis City police officers, to scrub the chalk drawing away.

The action took place on the same day that Peabody appeared to launch its website Coal Cares. This website claimed that Peabody would give free asthma inhalers to children living within 200 miles of a coal fired power plant. The website is actually a spoof put out by the group Coal Is Killing Kids. But as wired magazine points out, the website is backed by science. Meanwhile, Peabody put out a retraction, letting us know that it really isn't all that concerned about the effect of its product on the lungs of children.