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August 07, 2013

Tennessee Activists Use Kayaks in Demand to Move Beyond Coal

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Sometimes it's best to take a kayak to a coal fight.

In conjunction with the Sierra Club's release of a major report on Big Coal's water pollution last week, Tennessee activists -- using the opportunity to highlight the pollution from coal plants operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority -- took to the kayaks, floating on the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville and McKellar Lake in Memphis with signs that read, "Let's move TVA beyond coal."

"Coal is not only dirty, it's more expensive than the alternatives," said the chapter's conservation chairman Scott Banbury, as reported in The Tennessean. "We are encouraging the TVA to move away from coal to renewables, like wind and solar."

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Tennessee's eight coal plants are among the hundreds in the U.S. that depend on loopholes and the lack of coal water-pollution safeguards that protect families and communities from harmful, toxic coal pollution discharge.

The report didn't just showcase TVA's lousy record in Tennessee. In Alabama where TVA also operates, The Birmingham News detailed the report's findings that "three Alabama Power Company generating plants are polluting the Black Warrior River system -- the Miller Plant, the Gorgas Plant and the Greene County Plant. It says the pollution affects Bankhead Lake, which is used for drinking water," the article stated. The Miller Plant in Jefferson County in particular produced more than 5 million pounds of toxic waste in 2010.

The report, entitled Closing the Floodgates (pdf), found that of the 274 coal plants surveyed, more than a third are not required to monitor discharges; 71 percent leave toxic pollution in rivers, lakes, and other waterways; and nearly half operate with an expired Clean Water Act permit

After the report's release, industry spokespeople were on the defensive, disputing the severity of Big Coal's water pollution. What's not in dispute: The 2008 Kingston plant disaster in Tennessee spilled 5 million cubic yards of coal ash -- a result of TVA's neglect.  

Tennessee activists want to avoid a repeat of that disaster. They are calling for "increasing standards that will force the coal industry to make investments make sure that the water that they're discharging is clean and not posing any risk to people and the wildlife and we hope the EPA will move forward with that," Banbury said in this local Fox affiliate news segment.

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You don't need a kayak to show your support. Tell the Environmental Protection Agency that we need the strongest possible safeguards against toxic wastewater


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