EPA Proposal Coud Affect VT Coal Plant

28 05 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed strong new rules to limit hazardous air pollution from industrial boilers. If passed, the legislation will require significant upgrades at many of the campus coal plants across the nation, including Virginia Tech.

The new rules are designed to protect residents who live near and downwind from these coal plants. Specifically, the rule will substantially reduce emissions of toxic air pollution such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and acid gases, which can cause cancer, reproductive disorders, and other serious health problems.

“This is a great regulation that places environmental protection alongside the safeguarding of public health,” said Kara Dodson, a student at Virginia Tech. “The EPA’s requirement to clean up these aging plants provides a even great opportunity to transition away from expensive coal plants to using cleaner energy options that will really benefit the students and the surrounding community.”

Though the rule only applies to smaller facilities that don’t deliver power to the electricity grid, it is an important first step that is expected to slash overall mercury emissions by more than 50 percent.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that can impact a child’s ability to walk, talk, read, write, and learn. The mercury problem in the United States is so widespread that one in six women has mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk, according to the EPA. High mercury levels have also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in men.

The new pollution limits would also benefit those suffering from respiratory illnesses. The EPA estimates that they could prevent about 36,000 asthma attacks each year and result in $18 to $44 billion in health savings annually.

This legislation is one in a series of proposals that the EPA is in the process of issuing to close the exemptions that the coal industry has exploited for decades. New safeguards to protect communities from toxic coal ash are expected in the coming month. Next year, the EPA is scheduled to issue rules regulating hazardous air pollution from the large coal-fired power plants.

In addition, upcoming rules regulating coal ash will further underscore that coal plants are a costly energy option.

“Now is the perfect time to be making the switch to clean energy technologies—our local economy could grow from clean energy jobs and Virginia Tech would establish itself as a leader in sustainability and innovation,” said Virginia Tech student Kelsey Brandt.

Students at Virginia Tech have been working since the fall to build a strong campaign to transition from the current coal-fired steam plant to clean renewable energy by 2020. As a student organization, Virginia Tech Beyond Coal has grown in numbers and influence on the campus through consistent public education of the health and economic issues of burning coal for energy. The campaign is contacting the university administration to begin finding a solution for ending coal use on campus.

The effort at Virginia Tech is part of an ongoing campaign by the Sierra Club and its  Sierra Student Coalition to kick coal off campuses nationwide, working to wean colleges and universities off of coal-generated electricity and replace it with 100 percent clean energy options. For more information, visit www.ssc.org/beyondcoal.

Article can be found originally here.

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