Monday, October 19, 2009

State of Coal

by Michael Orton, all rights reserved

In light of the fact that coal-power developer Sevier Power Co. has closed their offices in Richfield, Utah, and that they have withdrawn their application for a fly ash disposal site within Sevier county, some may conclude that Sevier Power Company's plans for a 270 megawatt "merchant plant" in Sigurd, Utah is on the ropes. As of this writing, Sevier Power's application with the state's Department of Air Quality is also far beyond it's original expiration date, and that fact is being heralded by the central Utah conservation watchdogs, Sevier Citizens for Clean Air and Water.

Sevier Power Company principle Ken Flake moves out of Sevier County, Utah. Flake's company was trying to develop a 270 megawatt, coal-fired power plant in Sigurd, Utah

Many of Sevier County's public schools are still heated by coal. In a county where traditions and "good ol' boy" networks die hard, there is mounting evidence that Sevier Power Company's plans are terminally outdated. Because SPC was attempting to get their plant built without costly engineering required to limit pollution, these recent developments continue to threaten the idea that the old way of using coal power can continue at all. This does not mean that Sevier county's coal miners should feel that their jobs are threatened since Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said that we'll still be using coal for our energy demands as long as we learn to use it "more wisely." Current EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson has said that her department will enforce the laws involving environmental polluters, something that wasn't done during the previous administration. Her department is also planning to issue regulations governing future coal-fired power plants.

The formal withdrawal of Sevier Power Company's application to dump fly ash in Sevier County.

Last week, Dr. Brian Moench of Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment made a presentation in Richfield (the Sevier County seat) entitled, "We Are What Our Grandparents Inhaled; Our Grandchildren Will Be What We Inhale." Dr. Moench is formerly of the Harvard Medical School, and as an anaesthesiologist, he has an understanding of breathing science that may prove to be more potent than coal-fired power plant exhaust. He believes that the state's Department of Air Quality exists to facilitate big business interests, not to protect the people of Utah which its name implies.

Citing the newest, prize-winning research in "epigenetics," "telomeres and telomerase," Dr. Moench said that "those [people who are] occupationally exposed to air pollution will have telomeres that are 10 years older than their chronological age should suggest." Telomeres are "caps" located at the ends of human chromosomes, and research into their role in aging, the origins of cancer, heart disease and mental illness is described as "Copernican" in its relevance to today's understanding of human biology.

As Dr. Moench described current research from the Environmental Working Group of the Columbia School of Public Health, he stated that "cancer is a disease of accumulated chromosome damage," that is unleashed when "cancer cells divide indefinitely." Hence the connection with telomeres and what medical science is now learning about them and the genetic implications of even tiny amounts of pollution.

"There is no 'safe' level of air pollution," declared Dr. Moench, "The average newborn has more than 200 hazardous chemicals profusing throughout its body on day one..." and that "for the first time ever, human life expectancy is dropping." "Today, one of two men and one of three women will have cancer in their lifetime," he continued.

"One thing that is not disputed by any policy makers, is that babies deserve to be born free of pollution," the doctor concluded by telling everyone, "Don't let any industry pollute your body, not even by tiny amounts."

It will show up in your posterity, he insists.