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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/13/11

Mountaintop Removal: Environmental and Human Destruction for Profit

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-- 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx)," the equivalent of what's emitted by half a million late-model cars; it produces lung inflaming ozone, making people susceptible to respiratory diseases; and

-- smaller amounts of other toxins, including carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), mercury, arsenic, lead, cadmium, benzene, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.

No matter. King Coal is empowered to destroy environments and human health for a buck, lots of them, in fact, for well-connected coal barons buying federal, state and local politicians like toothpaste.

As a result, nearly 24,000 people die annually, according to a 2004 Clean Air Task Force study. In 2009, a National Research Council "external costs of coal" report titled, "Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use" estimated a 2005 hidden $62 billion health damage and air pollution cost from electricity generated by coal-fired power plants. The figure excludes the enormous harm to ecosystems.

A 2009 Jonathan Levy/Joel Schwartz/Lisa Baxter Harvard University study titled, "Uncertainty and Variability in Health-Related Damages from Coal-Fired Power Plants in the United States" estimated a range from $30,000 - $500,000 (depending on facility age and types of coal used) for every ton of fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5), with a median rate of $72,000 per ton.

Moreover, damage from each ton of sulfur dioxide ranged from $6,000 to $50,000, with a median rate of $19,000. For nitrogen oxide, it was $500 to $15,000, the median cost being $4,800.

Numerous other studies are just as damning, showing the health and environmental harm from coal production to burning, including a February 2011 Harvard Medical School one titled, "Mining Coal, Mounting Costs: the Life Cycle Consequences of Coal." It estimated the full public cost of extraction, transportation, processing and combustion at from $175 - $500 billion annually.

Nonetheless, King Coal's power remains strong, including to offload mine reclamation costs to taxpayers,  another way they're made to pay. Even trying to beat industry giants in court is futile because occasional district court level wins get overturned on appeal by bought and paid for judges, as much in the tank as politicians.

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I was born in 1934, am a retired, progressive small businessman concerned about all the major national and world issues, committed to speak out and write about them.

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