There is no such thing as clean coal

As more news comes out of Tennessee, the Dec. 22 coal sludge spill is sounding worse and worse. As you may have read two weeks ago on my previous care2 causes blog, a coal plant in Kingston, Tenn., spilled a sea of black sludge onto nearby houses and into wild lands. It covered 400 acres of land, up to 6 feet deep and flooded into tributaries of the Tennessee River–the water supply for Chattanooga, Tenn., and millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Originally the coal company, TVA, was saying that only 50 million gallons of coal-sludge was spilled out of their waste pits, but now the reports are indicating that the number is over 1 billion gallons of coal slur. Fifty million gallons is a big deal, but 1 billion is beyond belief.

This Tennessee TVA spill is over 40 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. Since day one, there have been a handful of committed volunteers and non-profits that are working on relief. United Mountain Defense has been at the site of the spill sharing information about the extremely serious threats to human health and the environment.

They’ve been preparing water tests, taking photos and video, giving out clean drinking water, and spreading information to local residents of the dangers of the ash. They are at a critical point in their work and need help from the environmental movement. Check out their blog to find out how you can help.

As horrible as this spill is, it provides us with an opportunity to learn, educate and organize. Our movement needs to draw on the first hand accounts, images and videos from this catastrophe to show people that coal is a dirty business and needs to be replaced. We can use these resources to make the case for renewable energy like solar, wind and hydroelectric.

They are not only better for our air quality, don’t contribute to global warming, but renewable energy is also just plain safer. Like I said in my last post, wind turbines and solar panels don’t produce any sludge.

Photo cred: United Mountain Defense:


Bud S.
Bud S9 years ago

Double-hull oil tankers were available before the Exxon Valdez accident, buy the Exxon Valdez did not have a double hull.

Even when safer technology exists, we cannot depend on profit-motivated corporations to use the better technology.

We must impose stronger penalties on polluters. The fines must not be merely token fines that are meaningless to a giant corporation. In blatant cases, we should also add prison time for the corporate decision-makers who are guilty of these crimes!

Bud S.
Bud S9 years ago

Before the Wright Brothers, there were no heavier-than-air aircraft, either; but heavier-than-air aircraft were invented.

Cleaner burning of coal fuel can be invented some day, also. However, it will never be COMPLETELY clean, because it is a fossil fuel that results in CO2.

Coal is plentiful and available domestically at a low price. Could further research produce a cleaner method of burning coal that will be economically viable?

Could further research provide a liquified coal that would replace gasoline as an automobile fuel?

I don't see that happening today, but I think that we should consider it as a possible option in the future.

Judith M.
Judith M9 years ago

"CLEAN" coal is a lie, a myth with a very disastrous ending. It's a tragedy.

We've got to stop even listening to the coal industry lobby. They're a bunch of self-seeking liars.

This latest unspeakable disaster in Kingston, TN and all points south along the Tennessee River, is being swept under the rug. It is unforgivable!

And what's to prevent it from happening time and time again? Did the mother of all oil disasters, the EXXON VALDEZ spill, signal the end of all oil spills?

Just GET RID OF COAL. And stop mountaintop-removal mining; leave our beautiful, historic, Appalachian mountains wild, free, and home to the people whose families have lived there for generations in harmony with this gorgeous environment.

Carrie H.
Carrie H9 years ago

They may be staling the clean up waiting for the supreme courts dicission on an alaska gold mining company fighting to violat the clean water act. the story is worth reading,
what ever they decide it will affect all mining waste management

Mark Kiernan
Mark Kiernan9 years ago

Coal is carbon and many other things, there is no such thing as clean coal. We need a 21st century idea not a 18th century one.

Valerie W.
Valerie Williams9 years ago

Thank you for this article - we need to debunk the 'clean coal' myth as quickly as possible