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March 25, 2011

Big Coal Giveaway

This week, in the heart of one of the nation's best potential wind energy-producing regions, the Powder River Basin, the Obama administration handed away thousands of acres of federal land –- land owned by you and me –- to the coal industry.

Coal companies have been pushing to expand mining in the West, and they are no doubt uncorking champagne right now in celebration of this enormous gift. But for those of us who aren't coal executives, the giveaway comes at a high cost.

The new coal will spew nearly 4 billion tons of carbon pollution into our air -- the equivalent of building 300 new coal-fired power plants, or twice the amount of new coal plants proposed by the Bush-Cheney Energy Plan back in 2001. It's not just this pollution's contribution to climate disruption that's worrisome. Burning coal produces all kinds of other toxic chemicals linked to serious health problems. In fact, coal pollution contributes to four of the five leading causes of death in the United States, and is responsible for an estimated 300,000 preventable birth defects each year.

Just pause for a second and consider that last statistic. Coal pollution causes an estimated 300,000 birth defects every year. Imagine how you'd feel if you were the parent of one of those children, knowing that their suffering could have been avoided.

We know that there's a solution to coal-fired pollution. But spurring new coal development undercuts the good work President Obama has done to transition to a clean energy economy.

The West, in particular, holds so much promise for a healthy and abundant clean energy -- and the good, safe jobs that come with it. In fact, the West alone holds enough renewable energy potential to fully power our entire nation. But we need to get serious about developing wind and solar in the West. And we can't get serious about clean energy while continuing to let coal companies wreak havoc.

There is no greater enemy to our clean energy economy -- and our children's health -- than dirty coal. President Obama has shown he's committed to a healthy, prosperous clean energy future. Expanding coal development in the West -- or anywhere -- has no place in that vision.

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