sunny.png
Monday July 22nd, 2019 7:37PM

Warnings over pollution met with a shrug in coal country

By The Associated Press

GRANT TOWN, W.Va. (AP) — It's coal people like miner Steve Knotts, 62, who make West Virginia Trump Country.

So it was no surprise that President Donald Trump picked the state to announce his plan rolling back Obama-era pollution controls on coal-fired power plants.

Trump left one thing out of his remarks, though: Northern West Virginia coal country will be ground zero for increased deaths and illnesses from the rollback on regulation of harmful emission from the nation's coal power plants.

An analysis done by his own Environmental Protection Agency concludes that the plan would lead to a greater number of people here dying prematurely, and suffering health problems that they otherwise would not have, than elsewhere in the country, when compared to health impacts of the Obama administration plan.

Knotts, a coal miner for 35 years, isn't fazed when he hears that warning, a couple of days after Trump's West Virginia rally. He says the last thing people in coal country want is the government slapping down more controls on coal — and the air here in the remote West Virginia mountains seems fine to him.

"People here have had it with other people telling us what we need. We know what we need. We need a job," Knotts said at lunch hour at a Circle K in a tiny town between two coal mines, and 9 miles down the road from a coal power plant, the Grant Town plant.

The sky around Grant Town is bright blue. The mountains are a dazzling green. Paw Paw Creek gurgles past the town.

Clean-air controls since the 1980s largely turned off the columns of black soot that used to rise from coal smokestacks. The regulations slashed the national death rates from coal-fired power plants substantially.

These days pollutants rise from smoke stacks as gases, before solidifying into fine particles — still invisible — small enough to pass through lungs and into bloodstreams.

An EPA analysis says those pollutants would increase under Trump's plan, when compared to what would happen under the Obama plan. And that, it says, would lead to thousands more heart attacks, asthma problems and other illnesses that would not have occurred.

Nationally, the EPA says, 350 to 1,500 more people would die each year under Trump's plan. But it's the northern two-thirds of West Virginia and the neighboring part of Pennsylvania that would be hit hardest, by far, according to Trump's EPA.

Trump's rollback would kill an extra 1.4 to 2.4 people a year for every 100,000 people in those hardest-hit areas, compared to under the Obama plan, according to the EPA analysis. For West Virginia's 1.8 million people, that would be equal to at least a couple dozen additional deaths a year.

Trump's acting EPA administrator, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist whose grandfather worked in the coal camps of West Virginia, headed to coal states this week and last to promote Trump's rollback. The federal government's retreat on regulating pollution from coal power plants was "good news," Wheeler told crowds there.

In Washington, EPA spokesman Michael Abboud said Trump's plan still would result in "dramatic reductions" in emissions, deaths and illness compared to the status quo, instead of to the Obama plan. Obama's Clean Power Plan targeted climate-changing carbon dioxide, but since coal is the largest source of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, the Obama plan would have curbed other harmful emissions from the coal-fired power plants as well.

About 160 miles to the south of Grant Town, near the state capital of Charleston, shop owner Doris Keller figures that if Trump thinks something's for the best, that's good enough for her.

"I just know this. I like Donald Trump and I think that he's doing the right thing," said Keller, who turned out to support Trump Aug. 21 when he promoted his rollback proposal. She lives 5 miles from the 2,900-megawatt John Amos coal-fired power plant.

"I think he has the best interests of the regular common people at the forefront," Keller says.

Trump's Affordable Clean Energy program would dismantle President Barack Obama's 2015 Clean Power Plan, which has been caught up in court battles without yet being implemented.

The Obama plan targeted climate-changing emissions from power plants, especially coal. It would have increased federal regulation of emissions from the nation's electrical grid and broadly promoted natural gas, solar power and other cleaner energy.

Trump's plan would cede much of the federal oversight of existing coal-fired power plants and drop official promotion of cleaner energy. Individual states largely would decide how much to regulate coal power plants in their borders. The plan is open for public review, ahead of any final White House decision.

"I'm getting rid of some of these ridiculous rules and regulations, which are killing our companies ... and our jobs," Trump said at the rally.

There was no mention of the "small increases" in harmful emissions that would result, compared to the Obama plan, or the health risks.

EPA charts put numbers on just how many more people would die each year because of those increased coal emissions.

Abboud and spokeswoman Ashley Bourke of the National Mining Association, which supports Trump's proposed regulatory rollback on coal emissions, said other federal programs already regulate harmful emissions from coal power plants. Bourke also argued that the health studies the EPA used in its death projections date as far back as the 1970s, when coal plants burned dirtier.

In response, Conrad Schneider of the environmental nonprofit Clean Air Task Force said the EPA's mortality estimates had taken into account existing regulation of plant emissions.

Additionally, health studies used by the EPA looked at specific levels of exposure to pollutants and their impact on human health, so remain constant over time, said Schneider, whose group analyzes the EPA projections.

With competition from natural gas and other cleaner energy helping to kill off more than a third of coal jobs over the last decade, political leaders in coal states are in no position to be the ones charged with enforcing public-health protections on surviving coal-fired power plants, said Vivian Stockman of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

"Our state is beholden to coal. Our politicians are beholden to coal," Stockman said outside Trump's West Virginia rally, where she was protesting. "Meanwhile, our people are being poisoned."

And when it comes to coal power plants and harm, Schneider said, "when you're at Grant Town, you're at Ground Zero."

Retired coal miner Jim Haley, living 4 miles from the town's coal-fired power plant, has trouble telling from the smokestack when the plant is even operating.

"They've got steam coming out of the chimneys. That's all they have coming out of it," Haley said.

Parked near the Grant Town post office, where another resident was rolling down the quiet main street on a tractor, James Perkins listened to word of the EPA's health warnings. He cast a look into the rear-view mirror into the backseat of his pickup truck, at his 3-year-old grandson, sitting in the back.

"They need to make that safe," said Perkins, a health-care worker who had opted not to follow his father into the coal mines. "People got little kids."

___

Raby reported from Charleston, West Virginia. AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Warnings over pollution met with a shrug in coal country
For some in coal country, shrugs greet warnings of more illnesses from loosening emissions regulations
12:21AM ( 7 minutes ago )
Asian stocks fall on trade worries, weak Chinese data
Asian shares are mostly lower as the lack of new leads following a U.S. market holiday meant that trade worries and slowing Chinese manufacturing activity stayed in the spotlight
12:17AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Taliban: Founder of Haqqani network dies inside Afghanistan
The Taliban say the Afghan Haqqani network founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, an ex- U.S. ally turned fierce enemy, has died after years of ill health
12:07AM ( 20 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Trump's rollback of pollution rules to hit coal country hard
President Donald Trump picked West Virginia to announce rolling back pollution rules for coal-fired power plants. But he didn't mention that the northern part of the state would be hit hardest.
4:09PM ( 8 hours ago )
Trump's pollution rules rollback to hit coal country hard
President Donald Trump picked West Virginia where he announced rolling back pollution rules for coal-fired power plants. But he didn't mention that the northern two-thirds of West Virginia, with the neighboring part of Pennsylvania, would be hit hardest.
1:11PM ( 11 hours ago )
Study shows health, reaction-time declines in firefighters
Researchers are using scientific measurements to understand the health dangers of wildland firefighting
6:50AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Health
75 hotel workers arrested at Labor Day protest in California
San Francisco police say 75 hotel workers protesting outside the J. W. Marriott's Westin St. Francis hotel were arrested for blocking a street in one of the city's busiest tourist areas
8:36PM ( 3 hours ago )
On Labor Day, Trump slams union leader who criticized him
Trump spends part of Labor Day slamming a top union leader who criticized him
7:56PM ( 4 hours ago )
Brazilians see metaphor for their struggles in museum fire
Brazilians see metaphor for their struggles in catastrophic museum fire
7:11PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Brazil's Temer promises to rebuild museum
Brazilian President Michel Temer says public and private banks and companies have agreed to help rebuild the National Museum that caught fire
12:04PM ( 12 hours ago )
Hamilton denies Ferrari a home win at Italian GP
Lewis Hamilton denied Ferrari a dream home win at the Italian Grand Prix as he overtook Kimi Raikkonen eight laps from the end to claim a fifth victory in seven years at Monza
4:12PM ( 1 day ago )
A topsy-turvy day of NAFTA talks ends with plans to resume
Talks to keep Canada in a North American trade bloc are to resume this coming week with the longtime allies divided over such issues as Canada's dairy market and U.S. efforts to shield drug companies from generic competition.
8:17AM ( 2 days ago )
AP Business - Corporate News
Asian shares dip amid growing worry over US-Canada trade
Asian shares are lower amid worries about escalating trade friction between the US and Canada
2:51AM ( 21 hours ago )
Father of slain Iowa student decries using her as 'pawn'
The father of slain Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts says his daughter's death should not be used to promote political agendas
3:11PM ( 1 day ago )
China-Africa trade deficit prominent at conference
African banker: Continent's leaders likely to press Beijing over trade deficit at conference this week
2:07AM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Industries
Study tests whether seaweed in cattle feed reduces emissions
California researchers are trying to determine whether adding small amounts of seaweed to cattle feed will reduce the animals' emissions of a potent greenhouse gas.
1:39PM ( 3 days ago )
Uganda opposition pop star blocked from flying to US for aid
Uganda's opposition pop star blocked from flying to US for treatment after alleged torture
10:22AM ( 3 days ago )
Researchers feed seaweed to dairy cows to reduce emissions
University of California researchers feed seaweed to cows, seeking to reduce methane emissions
1:00AM ( 3 days ago )
AP Business - Utilities
Asian stocks fall on trade worries, weak Chinese data
Asian shares are mostly lower as the lack of new leads following a U.S. market holiday meant that trade worries and slowing Chinese manufacturing activity stayed in the spotlight
12:17AM ( 10 minutes ago )
Taliban: Founder of Haqqani network dies inside Afghanistan
The Taliban say the Afghan Haqqani network founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, an ex- U.S. ally turned fierce enemy, has died after years of ill health
12:07AM ( 20 minutes ago )
After Rio museum fire, questions about cause, what survived
Forensic investigators and researchers await access to the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro, gutted in a fire, to find out how the blaze began and what remains of the 20 million artifacts that made the museum one of the most important in Latin America
12:04AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Nimmo's pinch-hit HR rallies Mets past LAD; deGrom gets ND
Pinch-hitter Brandon Nimmo slugged a go-ahead, three-run homer in the ninth inning, rallying the New York Mets past the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-2 in Jacob deGrom's latest stellar no-decision
11:57PM ( 30 minutes ago )
Tropical Storm Gordon brings hurricane warning to Gulf Coast
Tropical Storm Gordon lashed South Florida with heavy rains and high winds on Monday and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane when it hits the central U.S. Gulf Coast
11:10PM ( 1 hour ago )