The Clean Coal Scam

The air is cleaner, water is purer now than when I was growing up. That’s not in spite of the EPA, but primarily because of it.

I had the TV on early this afternoon when a commercial came on for “Clean Coal.” Clean coal? Seriously? Is there really such a thing? I went to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity‘s website to read up.

New coal plants built today using state-of-the-art technology offer improved environmental performance in terms of both efficiency and emissions reductions. According to the EPA and other sources, coal-fueled power plants are capable of reducing up to 98 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 90 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions and 90 percent of mercury emissions in some instances.

Notice the last three words: “in some instances.” Everything preceding those words is suspect at best and potentially meaningless. Like the commercial the website goes through major linguistic acrobatics to imply promises that are never really made.

For example there’s a link associated with “90 percent of mercury emissions” which leads to another page on the site.

According to the Government Accountability Office, sorbent injection systems have achieved, on average, 90 percent reductions in mercury emissions. For more information, go to:

Sounds good. I clicked the GAO link. All of a sudden the cleanliness of coal isn’t quite as evident.

The 491 U.S. coal-fired power plants are the largest unregulated industrial source of mercury emissions nationwide, annually emitting about 48 tons of mercury–a toxic element that poses health threats, including neurological disorders in children. In 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that mercury emissions from these sources should be regulated, but the agency has not set a maximum achievable control technology (MACT) standard, as the Clean Air Act requires.

Sorbent injection systems are used in 25 boilers at 14 coal-fired plants. I’m guessing that’s not all the boilers at those 14 plants, but even if it was that’s only 2.8% of the coal fired power plants! That’s a lot of dirty coal… and by dirty I mean toxic.

The reason the ad I saw was on-the-air was to try and rally support for the TRAIN Act. If you think clean coal is really clean then the TRAIN Act is for you!

Introduced by Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN) Act would create a special committee to oversee the EPA’s rules and regulations, and require the agency to consider economic impacts on polluters when it sets standards concerning how much air pollution is too much. For the last 41 years, since passage of the Clean Air Act, only scientific and medical considerations have been allowed in that analysis. – Huffington Post

Air is cleaner and water is purer than when I was growing up. That’s not in spite of the EPA, but primarily because of it. I don’t want to see that trend reversed.