Member Speaks Out About The True Costs of Coal | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Member Speaks Out About The True Costs of Coal

layton making calls from the CKY officeThe following is a letter written by Central Kentucky KFTC member Layton Register (shown right) to all House Tourism Development and Energy Committee members after they heard the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, House Bill 167, this last session:


Dear Representative,

I attended the committee meeting on March 22, 2012, to discuss HB167. It seems very clear to me, and I wish it were to the rest of the committee members, that coal is by no means a cheap source of energy. Coal is cheap for utility companies with coal-fired generators and for the coal companies to supply, but coal is not cheap for the rest of us or for future generations. A very large price is being paid. Please consider what the coal industry and the coal energy producers do not pay in order to mine, process, and burn this natural resource.

  • Property values near coal mining sites become practically worthless due to the dust, noise, and unsightliness, for which the mining companies compensate these property owners nothing.
  • Even after reclamation of a mining site, the land and soil have been disturbed to the extent that these areas are practically useless for property development, agriculture, or forestry.
  • Large, over-filled coal trucks cause dangerous traffic conditions, causing all of us to pay higher auto insurance rates. These same trucks, when not risking the lives of drivers, cause considerable wear and tear on the roadways, the repair and maintenance of which falls on the taxpayer, not the coal companies.
  • There has been study after study linking the coal dust from mining sites to breathing difficulties, cancer, and other serious ailments, treatment for which contributes to our exploding health insurance costs.
  • We have a shared existence with plants and animals. Therefore, what we do in the way of destroying wildlife habitat and permitting the destruction of plants and animals, we are ultimately doing to ourselves. For however much life is valued, it is being sacrificed for the sake of burning coal.
  • Mining and the processing of coal require heavy use of water. Heavy metals and other toxins, i.e. trailings, either are transferred into sludge impoundment ponds or directed into the water supply. Sludge impoundment ponds pose enormous risk to life and property, whether from small leaks or large breaks, such as what occurred in Martin County in 2000, while the water supply requires intensive treatment to be made safe for drinking.
  • When coal is being mined and when it is burned, some of the heavy metals and toxins escape into the air, which also pose health risks in the form of serious, if not fatal, respiratory diseases. The heavy metals and toxins that are trapped by scrubbers and other filtering equipment are commonly transferred into coal ash impoundment ponds, which, like the sludge containment ponds, pose risk to life and property. The cost of cleaning up the spill in Kingston, TN, that occurred in 2008 has climbed to over $1 billion.
  • Whether or not carbon dioxide is toxic is subject to debate. Regardless, that it can be deadly in high enough concentrations there is no doubt. Current levels of carbon dioxide may not be lethal, but there is a great deal of evidence that atmospheric conditions are changing due to carbon dioxide emissions, therefore is it really that inconceivable that worse could happen with increasing levels of carbon dioxide emissions? There will be a price to pay for filling the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. How much? Time will soon only tell.

So the next time an expert on coal-fired power plants or a coal executive tries to argue that coal is a low-cost energy source, please keep in mind what he or she is not factoring in, since it will indeed likely be a significant amount.


Layton did not receive a response from any committee member.

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