Press releaseDecember 18, 2003
Southwest Missouri citizens for clean energy oppose CU plan to burn more
Burning coal to generate electricity has serious public health and environmental consequences
Coal releases numerous toxic pollutants into the air, our water, and onto our lands, endangering our public health, harming the environment and creating unacceptable economic costs to society. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified 67 separate hazardous compounds and chemicals in the flue gas emitted from power plant smokestacks. Over 55 of these are known neurotoxins or developmental toxins and 24 are probable human carcinogens (e.g., mercury, dioxin, arsenic, hydrogen chloride, lead). Power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides alone are responsible each year in the United States for an estimated 30,100 deaths, 20,100 hospitalizations, 603,000 asthma attacks, and 5,130,000 lost workdays due to illness.
Children are particularly susceptible to the effects of air pollution from power plants, said Jo Thompson, Regional Director of the American Lung Association. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that children living within a 30 mile radius of utility smokestacks had a 3-4 times greater chance of premature death than children living outside that area. Citing American Lung Association data, Jo Thompson said there are an estimated 87,500 children living in Greene County that are exposed on a daily basis to the harmful emissions from City Utilities current coal-fired power plants. Approximately 5,400 of these children suffer from pediatric asthma.
Coal-fired power plants pose a significant and ongoing threat to our families and the environment, said Carla Klein, Director of the Ozark Chapter of the Sierra Club. Coal-fired power plants are the largest emitters of mercury in Missouri. Airborne deposits form the bulk of mercury, which occurs naturally in coal and rises out of it as it is burned. Burning coal is the major cause of mercury contamination of fresh water fish. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has once again issued a statewide mercury advisory for 2003 -- The contamination levels in certain fish species put children, pregnant women and women of childbearing years at risk. Mercury is so volatile that only one gram of the substance released into a 20-acre lake can result in the issuance of a fish advisory. Burning coal endangers our children's health through breathing polluted air and eating poisoned fish.
Seth Entwisle, a spokesperson for the Missouri Organic Growers Association, expressed concern that coal emissions contribute to a significant increase in ground-level ozone. Seth said that ozone reduces growth and yields of many economically important agricultural crops and because ozone interferes with a plants ability to produce and store food, sensitive vegetation like crops and native plants are more susceptible to the impacts of disease, insect attack and other pollutants.
Despite the serious public health and environmental consequences from burning coal, utility companies continue to promote coal as a cheap fuel. Utility companies consider coal cheap because the costs of burning coal to human health and to the environment are borne by individual citizens and taxpayers rather than by the utilities, said Linda Chipperfield, a spokesperson for Southwest Missouri Citizens for Clean Energy (SMCCE). The public, as well as businesses, pay for artificially lowered rates by increased visits to the doctor, hospitalizations, increased insurance rates, lost workdays, and even premature deaths. According to the Clear Air Task Force, the total health impacts from fossil fuel power plants in the United States are valued at $178 billion per year.
Stan Van Velsor, a spokesperson for SMCCE, said, it is not necessary to continue subjecting our citizens to the significant public health and environmental risks associated with burning coal. There are alternatives. By promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, we have a tremendous opportunity to create and use energy in smarter, more efficient ways, thereby reducing pollution, saving money, and creating jobs.
The Southwest Missouri Citizens for Clean Energy have a vision that looks to the future and not to the past. A vision where clean, reliable, and renewable energy resources support productive and environmentally healthy communities.
Therefore, we strongly encourage City Utilities to join with us in our goal to move away from the heavily polluting coal technology of the past. The alternative energy options presented below provide an opportunity for CU to secure Springfields energy future in a healthy, environmentally respectful, and fiscally responsible manner.
Energy efficiency is a proven, low cost alternative to burning coal. Abundant opportunities exist to reduce power usage by installing or using cost-effective, modern energy-efficiency technologies ranging from improved residential and commercial lighting to new, energy efficient appliances and industrial motors. The Midwest Clean Energy Development Plan suggests that an average investment of 2.4 cents per kilowatt-hour in energy-efficiency improvements would result in a 17% reduction in energy use over 10 years and a 28% reduction over 20 years. Southwest Missouri State University (SMS) provides an excellent example of the savings that can be gained by taking actions to improve energy efficiency. SMS made energy-efficiency improvements beginning in 1997 and has saved over $6.2 million in energy costs.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, wind power is the worlds fastest growing energy source, expanding by an average of 30% annually over the past five years. Wind farms across the country are currently generating about 10 billion (kWh) annually, enough to power one million average American homes. The Missouri Department of Natural Resources recently released an interim report depicting potential wind resources in Missouri. The report found that several areas in Southwest Missouri provide the wind resources necessary to support utility-scale wind power projects using large turbines that service the electrical grid. In addition to producing cost competitive electricity, wind power reduces air and water pollution and provides economic development to local communities. A study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists in Wisconsin found that 800 megawatts of new renewable power plants would create about 730 more jobs than new gas or coal plants over a 30-year period.
Solar power is another renewable energy technology that provides significant opportunities. Solar technology is remarkably simple and flexible, making it suitable for a wide variety of applications. The cost of solar power is currently higher than most conventional power systems, but rapid technological improvements and an industry growth rate of 25% will lead to lower per unit costs and make solar power more cost-competitive in the near future. In fact, STMicroelectronics, Europes largest semiconductor maker, recently reported they had discovered new ways to produce solar cells which will generate electricity twenty times cheaper than todays solar panels. The new solar cells would be able to compete with electricity generated by burning fossil fuels.
The Midwest has enormous untapped biomass energy potential from both crop residues and crops grown expressly for energy production. One of the primary options to increase biomass energy production is co-firing with biomass in existing coal plants. Co-firing with biomass could directly reduce the amount of coal burned in City Utilities' two existing power plants and could produce substantial economic and environmental benefits to the community. Additionally, co-firing is currently the most cost-effective form of renewable energy at 2-3 cents per kWh.