by Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club
A report by the Clean Air Task Force, which was released last week, is a devastating indictment of the coal industry and its impact to the public health. The report, “The Toll from Coal,” shows that across the nation, people are being hospitalized and dying due to the impacts of air pollution from dirty coal.
What is startling in this report is that New Jersey, which does not have that many coal plants, is listed 10th in the nation for mortality and impacts on health from coal. Pennsylvania is ranked first in the nation for mortality and impacts.
New York/Newark/Edison is ranked as the metro area with the most health impacts from coal pollution; Philadelphia/Camden/Trenton is ranked second. Those areas are where New Jersey’s coal plants are located. The Ocean City metro area, where the BL England plant is located, is ranked as 14th in the nation for mortality risk from coal plant. According to the map in the report, Salem and Gloucester Counties, where the Deepwater and Logan Township plants are located, have similarly high mortality rates.
According to the report, 531 people in New Jersey die each year from coal related deaths. There are 445 hospitalizations and 987 heart attacks in New Jersey from coal plants. For years, we have been subsidizing the coal industry because we have not charged them for the impacts they have on society and health. This report shows there is no such thing as clean coal its killer coal.
Even though we do not have as many coal plants as other states, because of our location at the end of the air stream, we receive a lot of pollution from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and other Midwestern states. Added to the pollution from our coal plants here, coal pollution is having a devastating health impact. Part of the problem is that many of our coal fired power plants are located in areas where there are high concentrations of people, therefore having a big impact on human health.
For instance, we have coal plants in Jersey City and Trenton. Those plants have bigger impact on public health because they are located in major cities. This report shows a direct correlation between the location of coal plants and the state of the public health around them.
This report is validation that BL England and Deepwater should be closed or converted to natural gas. The Hudson and Mercer plant should be converted to gas. This report clearly shows why we need to move beyond coal and transition to renewable energy like wind and solar.
The report doesn’t show the impacts coal fired power plants have on the economy because of missed work due to asthma and other respiratory illnesses or the impacts of Mercury pollution to our fish, which comes from coal pollution.
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