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Using the Media to Highlight Coal’s Threats

Posted by Barbara Gottlieb on February 10, 2009

Working with environmental allies in the "SC Says NO Coalition," PSR is using the media to educate South Carolinians about the deadly pollutants and global warming gases of a proposed coal-fired power plant.

Our efforts to date have resulted in a Feb. 9 op-ed in The State, news coverage in the Charleston Post and Courier, a 13-minute interview on AM radio, and back-page placement of our "Code Black" ad in the Myrtle Beach Alternatives, among other media hits.

Our success in securing media coverage reflects the strengths of strategic collaboration:  PSR provides specific, factual information about the impacts of coal combustion on health, while our collaboration with such allies as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League opens the door to local newspapers.

Health concerns are a foremost concern.  The plant, proposed to be built on the Pee Dee River between the town of Florence and the popular tourist destination of Myrtle Beach, would emit over 60 different hazardous air pollutants.  These include mercury, dioxins, arsenic, heavy metals, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and particulate matter -- substances which are known to be carcinogens, teratogens, neurotoxins, and/or cardiopulmonary irritants. 

Even without additional health burdens from a new coal plant, South Carolina ranks as one of the worst-performing states in terms of health, ranking #48 out of 50, according to America's Health Rankings.

South Carolina's coastal rivers are already heavily contaminated by mercury.  Mercury "advisories" issued by the Environmental Protection Agency urge residents to limit their consumption of local fish.  Regardless, many poor people fish the rivers, relying on their catch to supplement their diet.

The plant would also release carbon dioxide and increase global warming.  The South Carolina coastal plain is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding, both of which are likely to increase as the planet continues warming.

The permitting application for the proposed plant fails to quantify the amount of CO2 it would emit.  The lack of projected CO2 emissions, and the failure to identify the technologies that would be used to reduce them, is one basis on which the plant's air quality permit is being challenged.

Do you live in South Carolina?  Email me at bgottlieb@psr.org for easy ways to educate your community about coal's threats to health.  

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