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Bruce Nilles

Bruce Nilles

Posted May 7, 2009 | 09:44 PM (EST)

Good and Bad News About Coal (Plus Video)


Just like the blog title states, this week we saw both sides of the fight for clean energy. I'll start with the bad news -- which comes straight from Kansas. (And stay with me til the bottom of the post, when I'll share something both laughable and shocking)

This week new Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson offered a deal to Sunflower Electric Kansas, the company that had been lobbying for their coal-fired power plants for well over a year now -- and which former Kansas Gov. and now Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius had repeatedly blocked.

Gov. Parkinson is allowing Sunflower to build one of these coal plants -- saying concessions were made for both sides. According to our Kansas chapter, with this settlement Governor Parkinson offered to Sunflower Electric, Kansas has given up its place as a national leader on clean energy.

Stephanie Cole, our chapter leader in Kansas, said that under former Gov. Sebelius, Kansas was well-positioned to make contributions to slow global warming. This agreement is a significant set back. The concessions made to the coal industry will greatly outweigh any so-called benefits for the state. For instance, the carbon "offsets" cited in the agreement are generally questionable, unenforceable, and won't result in a reduction in global warming pollution.

The new coal plant actually increases Kansas' contributions to global warming (PDF). While the country is moving away from polluting fossil fuels, Kansas has opened the door for outdated, dirty technology other states are rejecting. The agreement appears to invite Sunflower Electric to build another coal plant in two years. This is not a compromise, but a giveaway to the coal industry Kansans have stood up against.

As such, the fight will continue in the sunflower state.

But I will at least end this post with the good clean energy news. On May 1, LS Power suspended plans for its planned Midland, Michigan, coal-fired power plant.

According to our Michigan chapter, LS Power had resisted complying with the environmental regulations needed to get a coal plant approved in Michigan, in particular meeting standards for mercury emissions.  This unwillingness to meet public health and environmental standards was blamed, but one major factor in the demise of this proposal was the decision by its partner Dynegy to drop this project and others in January 2009 after a successful campaign by Sierra Club to point out the financial foolishness of investing in coal plants. 

Congratulations to the citizens of Michigan and to our chapter there, which works so hard to bring clean energy to the state.

And now for your laugh/shock of the day: The West Virginia Coal Association just published on its website some cell phone ringtones touting the greatness of coal. Yes, you read that correctly: coal-positive ringtones that you can download for your cell phone.

We here at the Sierra Club thought those ringtones worked better with video, because we wanted to show there is nothing great about coal.