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PSR chapters continue to fight coal

November 17, 2011

PSR chapters continue to make powerful strides to get the U.S. off of coal and onto clean, healthy, renewable energy sources.  Just in the past week, PSR activists in Oregon, Iowa and Michigan conducted an impressive series of public events, media visits and Grand Rounds presentations. 

Oregon PSR

Oregon PSR joined with partners Sierra Club and Climate Solutions to hold a “Coal Hard Truth Forum,” spotlighting the proposal to export tens of millions of tons of coal through the state to foreign markets.

Coal companies are threatening to send millions of tons of coal from mines in Wyoming and Montana overseas, hauling 20 trainloads of uncovered coal cars through Portland daily to proposed export terminals on the coast.

Oregon and Washington State PSR chapters are both ending their reliance on coal by committing to close their last coal plants. But this proposal from Big Coal would jeopardize the health, safety, and economy of Pacific Northwest communities. 

The highly successful “Truth Forum” looked at the risks to health if those plans are approved. Coal trains would spew toxic coal dust into the air and water, expose residents’ lungs to diesel exhaust, clog the railroads and road crossings, spark fires, and stoke climate change.

Iowa PSR

The same week, Iowa PSR spoke out about coal at three separate events:

Iowa PSR president Maureen McCue, MD MPH, spoke to a Unitarian church about the health-based impacts of coal.

Later that week, Dr. McCue addressed over 150 students and faculty members from the hydrology, geology, and sustainability departments at Iowa State University.

And the chapter fielded two speakers at a large rally at the University of Iowa, calling on the university to move the campus off of coal-fired power.  PSR was represented both by Dr. McCue and by its coal campaign organizer, Paul Deaton, who is working with students to develop an inventory of alternative energy sources available in Iowa. 

After the rally, participants delivered a petition bearing 3,000 student signatures to the university president, calling on him to stop burning coal in the campus’s cogeneration power plant.

All three events examined Iowa’s energy alternatives if they move off of coal.  “This is what people increasingly bring up,” McCue commented, noting that Iowa is well-positioned to replace dirty fossil fuels with wind and/or solar power. 

“I really think we’re making some progress here,” she stated.  “I think we might get some coal plants shut down here in IA in the foreseeable future.” 

Michigan

In Michigan, PSR board member and senior scientist Alan Lockwood, MD FAAN, conducted a brief speaking tour that brought his expertise to hospital personnel, university students, and two editorial boards. 

Dr. Lockwood made a Grand Rounds presentation at the Sparrow Hospital in Lansing.  The talk, attended by about 75 doctors, focused on the impacts of coal pollutants on the respiratory, nervous and cardiovascular systems and drew good questions.

He met with students at Michigan State working to close their campus’s coal-fired power plant, one of the largest and dirtiest university plants in the nation.  He and the students then met with the editorial board of the State News, a Michigan State student paper that is widely read in the off-campus community.

A few days later, the paper issued its first editorial voicing definitive support of the effort to close down the coal-fired power plant. The students told PSR  that the paper had done a good job of covering their activities but had never written an editorial endorsing their goals - until now.

Dr. Lockwood then met with the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press.  Dr. Lockwood was accompanied throughout his tour by a staffer from the Ecology Center, PSR’s partner organization in Michigan.  Many thanks to the Ecology Center for helping set up a highly effective speaking tour!

 

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