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Coal Ash Disaster Underscores Need to End Coal Use

Posted Feb. 17, 2009 / Posted by: NBerning

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Nick Berning: (202) 222-0748

After massive Tennessee coal ash spill, Friends of the Earth mobilizes activists to push for moratorium on new coal plants, phase-out of old ones

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A disastrous pre-Christmas spill of a billion gallons of toxic coal ash in Tennessee -- and a front-page New York Times report today about the threat posed by more than a thousand coal ash dumps in 46 states -- have led environmental advocates to renew their calls for an end to the use of coal.

“The scope of the disaster in Tennessee is appalling, with hundreds of acres polluted, homes swept from their foundations, and toxic sludge flowing into streams and rivers,” said Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder. “Even more alarming is that there are more than a thousand such toxic dumps threatening communities across the country. Air and water pollution from coal plants has already killed thousands of Americans, and coal is public enemy number one when it comes to global warming. It’s time to transition away from coal once and for all.”

Friends of the Earth is mobilizing activists to contact Congress and demand an immediate moratorium on the construction of new coal plants, as well as a rapid phase-out of plants that already exist. Those plants should be replaced by clean alternatives, including wind and solar power, as well as energy efficiency, the group said.

Coal ash, a toxic byproduct from burning coal to create electricity, contains heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury and selenium, which threaten water supplies and human health. Even without disasters like the one in Tennessee, coal ash is causing problems: the EPA has identified 63 sites around the country where groundwater has already been contaminated by coal ash dumps, according to the New York Times report today.

Meanwhile, the spill in Tennessee continues to kill wildlife and threaten human health and the environment (to view the devastation firsthand, see this video from Appalachian Voices).

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 greenhouse gas emissions from coal must cease if we are to avoid catastrophic changes to our climate.

Members of the public who would like to join Friends of the Earth’s call for an end to the use of coal should visit: http://www.foe.org/coal-ash-disaster.

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Friends of the Earth (www.foe.org) is the U.S. voice of the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, with member groups in 77 countries. Since 1969, Friends of the Earth has fought to create a more healthy, just world.

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