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Climate Change

Coal-fired power plants are the leading global warming culprit in the U.S., accounting for more than 30 percent of our nation's carbon dioxide emissions. They also are one of the nation's largest sources of air pollutants that damage cardiovascular and respiratory health and threaten healthy child development.

Particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, and more than 50 other air toxics are among the dangerous mix of pollutants spewed from the smokestacks of coal plants. Despite this poor environmental record, energy companies have proposed building more than 100 new coal-fired power plants across the country.

In Washington, we are facing a unique opportunity to end the production of coal-fired electricity in our state. The outdated Transalta coal plant is already slated to be closed in 2025, but advocates say that is too long to wait. WPSR is joining forces with the Sierra Club and Earth Justice to demand the closure of TransAlta by 2015.

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TransAlta Coal Plant: Centralia, WA

The Canadian-owned TransAlta Coal Plant in Centralia is Washington's last coal-fired power plant. While providing only 20% of the state's power, it is the state's largest point source of mercury, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen oxide pollution.

The TransAlta coal plant releases 2.3 million tons of coal ash each year, which is comprised of several toxic chemicals including arsenic, lead, barium and chromium.

The TransAlta coal plant the largest single source of global warming pollution in our state. The pollution created at the coal plant affects all of the body's major organ systems, and contributes to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the U.S.: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic lower respiratory diseases.

The good news? TransAlta is scheduled to be shut down in 2025.

The bad news? That's not soon enough.

As Dr. Alexander Hamling, a pediatrician at Seattle Children's Hospital, wrote in The Tacoma News-Tribune:

TransAlta is not only jeopardizing the health of children, but the health effects linked to TransAlta's pollution are also draining Washington's economy. The National Research Council's report, "Hidden Costs of Energy," found that we spend roughly $11.2 million every year to pay for health care costs linked to TransAlta.

To protect human health, WPSR has joined with the Sierra Club and Earth Justice to shut down the TransAlta coal plant by 2015, and train the TransAlta workforce for new jobs.

Coal and Climate Change

Within the electricity sector, CO2 emissions from coal-fired electricity generation comprise nearly 80 percent of the total emissions, but the share of electricity generation from coal is only 50 percent. This disproportionate carbon footprint is due to the high carbon content of coal relative to other fossil fuels like natural gas. Without the ability to capture and safely store CO2, emissions from the fleet of new coal plants proposed across the country will make it virtually impossible to prevent the worst impacts of global warming.

As global temperatures increase, public health will suffer as a result of increased heat waves, more severe storms, worsening air pollution and the spread of vector borne diseases such as malaria and West Nile virus. Sea level rise will severely disrupt the lives of the more than 150 million U.S. residents living in and around our nation's coastal cities and towns. Across the U.S., the poorest and most vulnerable individuals those least able to adapt will be disproportionately affected as the U.S. public health infrastructure becomes overburdened by the impacts of global warming.

Coal's Assault on Human Health

Physicians for Social Responsibility has released a groundbreaking medical report, "Coal's Assault on Human Health," which takes a new look at the devastating impacts of coal on the human body. Coal combustion releases mercury, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and dozens of other substances known to be hazardous to human health.

This report looks at the cumulative harm inflicted by those pollutants on three major body organ systems: the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, and the nervous system. The report also considers coal's contribution to global warming, and the health implications of global warming.

Coal's Assault on Human Health: Executive Summary

Coal's Assault on Human Health: Full Report

Want to stay informed on these issues? Sign up for WPSR's Action Alerts.

For more, read:

Code Black on Coal

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