Mounatin Justice Spring Break

Mountain Justice Spring Break

MJSB 2008 Protests AMP-Ohio Headquarters East Coast Power Mountain Justice activists share their grievances with West Virginia's Gov. Manchin Steam billows from the Gavin coal fired plant's massive cooling tower Mountain Justice activists protest for a new School at Marsh Fork
Southern Energy Network Energy Justice Network

Lifecycle of Coal

There is no such thing as "clean coal."  Coal is dirty from cradle to grave.  The mining, processing, transportation, burning and disposal of coal waste is toxic, wasteful, and harms communities in Appalachia and across the country.

Burning coal currently generates about 32 percent of America's electricity, down from 50 percent in just the past few years.  Power companies are rapidly shifting away from coal to cheaper and cleaner-burning natural gas, but the use of hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas deposits from shale formations has resulted in contamination of underground water, which harms rural communities that rely on well water.  See the powerful testimonial video posted here for one Ohio resident's account of well water contamination caused by fracking. 

Coal claims to provide cheap electricity, but coal companies have externalized their costs onto the public.  When federal subsidies, health costs from air and water pollution, degradation of public waterways and roads, loss of land, culture and heritage, and the cost of global warming are included, coal is actually far more expensive than renewables such as wind and solar. 

The Injustice of Coal

Coal mining, burning and waste disposal often occurs in poor communities or communities of color.  This is a form of environmental injustice. Because poor folks often have fewer resources to fight back, their homes can become sacrifice zones for cheap electricity.  Organizing in rural communities on the issues of fracking and mountaintop removal is vital to prevent environmental injustices. 

Toxins from coal build up near power plants and disposal sites, causing illnesses like asthma, heart disease and cancer to increase.

The poverty rate of people living within one mile of power plant waste facilities is twice as high as the national average.

Communities of color are 30% more likely to live near a coal power plant

To stop the dirty impacts of  coal and fracking, we must work to build a clean, just energy future that benefits and includes all of us—not just those that can afford it.

Burning coal

Burning coal releases Sulfur Dioxide (cause of acid rain), Nitrogen oxide, lead, arsenic, mercury, and other heavy metals plus very fine particulates (less than 10 microns diameter) that, when inhaled, penetrate the linings of the lungs and enter the bloodstream, contributing to heart disease.

Coal fired power plants use about 2.2 billion gallons of water per plant per year, enough water for a city of 250,000 people

Coal fired power plants release 40% of mercury toxins —the largest source in the US.

A typical plant emits 170 pounds of mercury in one year, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat.

Pollution from existing power plants causes 24,000 premature deaths annually.

Coal waste

Coal waste is unregulated and more than 100 million tons are generated each year. It is placed into unlined pits or used in wallboard, cement, or as "anti-skid" material on icy roads.

According to an EPA study, cancer risk is 10,000 times higher near coal disposal sites.


Elisa Young's experience with coal in southeast Ohio:

Impacts of the coal lifecycle: