Report: US coal plant distribution unfairly burdens minority communities
A new NAACP report shines a light on the many coal power plants dotting the silhouettes of major American cities. Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People addresses the issue of coal-fired power plant pollution and its disproportionate impact on communities of color.
The grassroots groups Indigenous Environmental Network and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization partnered with lead researcher and author Adrian Wilson and several other contributors to create this study. This coalition scored, graded, and ranked the nation’s coal power plants based on the impact of each plant’s pollution output on the health, economics, and environment of nearby neighborhoods.
Its findings show that of the six million people living within three miles of our nation’s 378 coal power plants, these citizens have an average per capita income of $18,400 per year. Communities of color represent 39 percent of this group, according to the report.
The top ten coal-energy producing states have an average lung cancer rate of 98.3 per 100,000 people, or 19 percent higher than the U.S. average; the bottom ten states have an average lung cancer rate of 77.2 per 100,000 — nearly 7 percent lower than the national average, according to a 2006 report by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. For residents in states such as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, which were found to have eight of 12 “worst offending” coal plants according to Coal Blooded, these facts might prove alarming.
Yet, the NAACP has had difficulty conveying the disturbing nature of this portrait to this segment of the energy industry. “The biggest obstacle has been the refusal by coal companies to acknowledge, much less address, the significance of the toxins the plants are putting into the air,” Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program, told theGrio. “Instead, they will obstinately deny that these toxins are affecting human health and will deny the contribution to our carbon dioxide load or even deny the impact of carbon dioxide on climate change.”
Much of the information available on this environmental justice issue is not geared towards the “average person,” said Patterson. To remedy this, the Coal Blooded report will serve as the launching point for a campaign to address coal power plant pollution, including youth-friendly toolkits.
“It’s very easy right now to talk about climate change as something that is theoretical, to talk about the dirtiness caused by coal plants as something that is aesthetic,” NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous told The Daily Climate. “But when you … actually meet with people in these communities, the stories that they tell you – about their children’s lives being diminished, about older people in the communities lives being shortened by the presence of these plants – are disturbing.”