This is a guest post by EWG's Lauren Glickman, who is not afraid of the boogieman.
The myth of clean coal should be filed somewhere between stories of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the magical pot of gold at the end of rainbow. It's like a fairy tale you believe in as a child, something to ease your fears of the dark and the boogieman. You grow out of some fears like the boogieman, while others you learn how to face. Unfortunately, we are not going to grow out of our energy dependence, and we won't wake up one day to find it gone forever. But turning to a fantasy like "clean coal" as a solution is like depending on the pot of gold to pay off your credit card bills.
Last week I spent time with over a hundred individuals from across the country lobbying Congress to stop mountaintop removal coal mining. Mountaintop removal is just that: The coal industry is blowing up mountains all over Appalachia in order to get to the coal underneath. The top of the mountain is removed and then dumped in the neighboring valley. Cleaning the coal results in a sludge that is full of toxic chemicals, which is then dumped into our rivers, exposing thousands to a public health epidemic we can scarcely begin to comprehend. Appalachian families are bathing their children in water laced with arsenic, lead, and other hazardous chemicals. In the mean time, one by one, the mountains in their community are being destroyed.
The bottom line is that coal is dirty from the moment of extraction to the moment it is burned in any of the thousands of coal-fired power plants across the country. It's easy to overlook when we are constantly reminded of our dependence on oil, that its actually coal running through the veins of this country. At the current rate Appalachian coal will be depleted in a couple of decades; Appalachian communities may not have that long. That's why I spent my mornings last week on Capital Hill, lobbying Congress and meeting with delegates from my home state of New York. The ask was simple: co-sponsor the Clean Water Protection Act, a piece of legislation (currently in the House) that would make it illegal to blow up our mountains and pollute our water. Fairytales make great bedtime stories but they are nothing to build an energy policy upon. It's time to grow up and take that first step towards a clean energy future.