The decommissioning of coal-fired power plants in the continental United States has reduced nearby pollution and its negative impacts on human health and crop yields, according to a new University of California San Diego study.
The findings published this week in Nature Sustainability use the U.S. transition in recent years from coal towards natural gas for electric power generation to study the local impacts of coal-fired unit shutdowns. While the shift from coal to natural gas has reduced carbon dioxide emissions overall, it has also changed local pollution levels at hundreds of areas around the country. In particular, the burning of coal creates particulate matter and ozone in the lower atmosphere—often experienced as “smog” —which can affect humans, plants and regional climate. These pollutants (aerosols, ozone and other compounds) from coal burning can wreak havoc on human health when inhaled, and also have damaging effects on plant life. They also alter local climate by blocking incoming sunlight.
The author, Jennifer Burney, associate professor of environmental science at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy, combined data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on electric power generation with satellite and surface measurements from the EPA as well as NASA to gauge changes in local pollution before and after coal-fired unit shut-downs. She also studied changes in county-level mortality rates and crop yields using data from the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Burney found that between 2005 and 2016, the shutdown of coal-fired units saved an estimated 26,610 lives and 570 million bushels of corn, soybeans and wheat in their immediate vicinities. The inverse calculation, estimating the damages caused by coal plants left in operation over that same time period, suggests they contributed to 329,417 premature deaths and the loss of 10.2 billion bushels of crops, roughly equivalent to half of year’s typical production in the U.S.Click here to read the whole release.
Meanwhile, from The Columbus Dispatch:
The fracking boom across the country has resulted in greenhouse gas emissions steadily climbing each year since the United States has become the largest producer of oil and gas in the world.
As a result of the boom, there are plans over the next five years to build or extend 157 petroleum and natural gas drilling sites and chemical manufacturing and refinery plants across the country, according to federal records.
That expansion will result in greenhouse gas emissions across the U.S. totaling 990.5 million tons per year by 2025, according to a study by the Environmental Integrity Project.
The nonpartisan and nonprofit group, established in 2002 by former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency attorneys, said that’s the equivalent of 50 new coal-fired power plants.
The emissions estimate includes the proposed Thailand-based PTT Global Chemical America ethane petrochemical plant in Belmont County. The so-called “cracker” plant, which would use natural gas and create ethylene, an ingredient used in plastics, would emit an estimated 1.785 million tons of greenhouse gases each year.
“It’s company-supplied information. The big picture, especially for Appalachia — Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia — is this facility would create demand for even more oil and gas extraction and kind of lock this region into that economy,” said Courtney Bernhardt, research director for the Environmental Integrity Project. “Right now, renewable sources of energy are available. And I know that this facility would be creating plastic, ultimately, but there are other ways to make plastic.”Read the rest of that article by clicking here.
It's with studies like that in mind that protesters are fighting to try and stop the proposed cracker plant, as reported by The Times Leader:
A potential ethane cracker plant proposed for Dilles Bottom is facing some opposition.
More than 30 people from communities such as Wheeling, Bridgeport, Moundsville, Shadyside and Weirton held signs and stationed themselves on both sides of W.Va. 2 at the Moundsville Plaza, located across the Ohio River from the proposed plant site. Many drivers honked horns as they passed, and some shouted encouragement and gave thumbs-up signs.
PTT Global Chemical America and Daelim Industrial Corp., based in Thailand and South Korea, respectively, obtained an air permit-to-install and a modified wastewater discharge permit for the project in 2018. Environmental groups opposed to the project immediately challenged one of those permits, but that issue was resolved in September, when a settlement was announced.
Vincent DeGeorge, representing the activist organization Concerned Ohio River Residents and president of Ohio Valley PEACE, said the protesters have environmental and health concerns.
“We’re a group of local citizens who think the truth, all the information about this cracker plant, hasn’t come out, and we’re confident when that information comes out, the environmental concerns, the economic concerns, the health concerns, Ohio River residents will be convinced that this cracker plant is not the way to go, that there are much better alternatives,” he said. “(We’re) letting other people who have concerns about the cracker plant know that they’re not alone.”That whole article can be read by clicking on this link.