Pittsburgh Group Rides Against Coal
Last Saturday in Pittsburgh a group of citizens and representatives from several environmental organizations used a unique way to draw attention to the environmental issues surrounding the use of coal.
Participants rode their bikes, roller blades and skates along the Allegheny River from the offices of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on Washington's Landing to Point State Park. Once there they held a rally and press conference to ask Governor Ed Rendell and DEP Secretary John Hanger to move Pennsylvania beyond the use of dirty coal and toward a future that would better protect state residents.
"Pennsylvania is doing a great job in moving forward toward our new energy economy by investing in truly renewable energy sources such as wind and solar - there is no need to build any new coal facilities here", said Randy Francisco, Sierra Club Pennsylvania campaign organizer.
"Building additional plants in Pennsylvania would be a step backwards, harming families and making global warming worse. The Pittsburgh area suffers from high levels of pollution from surrounding plants. We don't need any more coal plants around us, and we need to clean up the ones that are already here."
Francisco said the ride and rally gathered more than 25 people together to talk coal and clean energy. He said the Center for Coalfield Justice, Group Against Smog and Pollution, and the Environmental Integrity Project helped organize the event.
"Everyone had a great time and a few of the riders even continued on from there and rode about 20 miles that day," said Francisco.
Mary Anne Hitt, deputy director the Sierra Club Beyond, spoke at the rally as well.
Another issue brought up during the rally was longwall coal mining. Francisco said that coal companies that practice longwall mining in Pennsylvania are devastating local communities. Under current law they are permitted to cause damage to structures, including family homes. They are also allowed to disrupt water supplies. Coal companies are required to fund repairs to homes and to replace water supplies, but frequently residents find themselves embroiled in lengthy legal battles with these companies to have their former living conditions restored.
"On physical, financial, and emotional levels, longwall mining literally undermines people's homes, quality of life, and social and economic security," said Raina Rippel, Director of the Center for Coalfield Justice. "Southwestern Pennsylvania is essentially being treated as an energy sacrifice zone. We provide 'cheap' coal to a nation hungry for energy, while our citizens and communities bear a disproportionate amount of the environmental, health and economic costs."
Francisco is planning a similar event for Philadelphia this summer and hopes the bike ride and rally will become an annual event.
Photos by Randy Francisco