Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, and as the mom of a five-year-old, it just keeps getting better. This year, the whole family is dressing up like rock stars, and I'm looking forward to a great night of fright here in our small West Virginia town.
But this Halloween, the coal industry is up to some genuinely scary tricks. With the release of the Clean Power Plan and the approach of international climate talks in Paris, the coal industry is doubling down on its attempts to stop the transition to clean energy in its tracks. As director of the Beyond Coal Campaign, I'm working with thousands of people to banish these ghouls and goblins, so that my daughter grows up in a world that isn't haunted by the specter of air pollution, water pollution, and climate chaos.
Here are five scary tricks from the coal industry to watch for this Halloween:
1. Trying to bewitch our progress on climate
In recent weeks, the coal industry has ramped up its full-out attack on the Clean Power Plan, which is the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) roadmap to reduce climate-disrupting carbon pollution from the power sector. In Congress and in the courts, the coal industry and its political allies have introduced measures intended to block the Clean Power Plan.
They won't succeed though - a recent report found the U.S. is leading all industrialized nations of the world in the shift away from coal, and even here in West Virginia, power company executives are recognizing that coal isn't coming back. But the fight for the Clean Power Plan will be intense over the coming months, and we'll need help from everyone to get it safely over the finish line. You can attend a public hearing to support the Clean Power Plan this November in Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Denver, or Washington, D.C. - sign up here!
2. Propping up zombie coal plants
From Ohio to New York and beyond, coal plant operators are seeking sweetheart deals to prop up zombie coal plants that can no longer compete on the open market. Fortunately, the Sierra Club and our allies are fighting back against these schemes, to ensure electricity customers aren't saddled with the bill for keeping these outdated coal plants on life support.
3. Releasing a witch's brew of toxic water pollution
Believe it or not, coal plants create the majority of toxic water pollution in this country - a witch's brew of nasty stuff like mercury and arsenic. Until recently there were no national standards for safely disposing of this waste.
Thankfully, that changed in September when the EPA released long-overdue safeguards for coal plant water toxics. The standards will eventually turn off the spigot of this pollution into our nation's streams, rivers, and lakes - a big victory for clean water and our families.
4. Ghostly haze in our national parks
Air pollution from Utah coal plants is threatening some of our nation's most treasured national parks. In recent days, over 100 outdoor retailers and 30,000 people have submitted comments to EPA calling on them to address this problem once and for all. Pro skier Angel Collinson wrote this great piece for Outside Magazine on what's at stake. Now we need EPA to do the right thing on #cleanair4utah. You can join in and send EPA a message here.
5. Monstrous attacks on clean air
At the state and federal level, big polluters have been working overtime to weaken or roll back common-sense clean air protections.
This month, for example, the EPA modestly strengthened safeguards against smog pollution, falling well short of what medical scientists said was needed to protect the health of our kids. Even after lobbying for such a weak update to the safeguards, polluters and their allies are still railing against the decision and recently decided to sued the agency in their effort to be able to pollute our air with impunity.
In Maryland, clean air advocates are fighting to have clean air safeguards reinstated that were yanked by Governor Hogan after he took office earlier this year. And in cities like Detroit and Baltimore, residents are still living every day in the shadow of highly dangerous coal plants that lack basic pollution controls, like scrubbers. It's a shame that in 2015 so many Americans still have to fight for their right to breathe, but it's a fact - and one more reason why we need your help.
These are scary tricks indeed, but don't be afraid. The Beyond Coal campaign is working hard to ensure all Americans enjoy the treats of clean air, clean water, and a safe climate. OK, I may be taking the Halloween theme a little too far here - these aren't treats, they're basic rights. And thanks to everyone out there working to move this country Beyond Coal, on this Halloween and every day of the year, the future looks brighter - and a lot less scary - for our kids.