LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Toxic emissions hurt every man, woman and child in Missouri

Monday, March 31, 2014 | 1:13 p.m. CDT

Now we know it's time to build a clean energy future.

I live close enough to Labadie Power Plant to see its triple smokestacks from my house in eastern Missouri. For many years the plant was a source of pride and security. Its electricity had connected us through the grid system, enriching our lives with its usefulness.

Now, I no longer have that sense of security when viewing the triple smokestacks of Ameren’s Labadie coal-fired power plant. Now I know about climate change and its principal driver — carbon pollution.

Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the National Climate Assessment are all sounding alarms on climate change. It’s time to reduce carbon from fossil fuels.

Now I know about dirty coal ash — full of arsenic, mercury, lead, hexavalent chromium and other dangerous toxins. It’s stored in unlined coal ash disposal ponds in the Missouri River bottoms. It’s made into concrete that is used all over our community.

Ponds leak, and eventually concrete degrades. These toxins don’t decompose. They accumulate each year that coal is burned. These pollutants can cause cancer and damage the nervous system and organs, especially in children.

Now I know about pollutant emissions from coal plant smokestacks. I am breathing dangerous sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulate matter, and other harmful pollutants.

Several times a year my husband can’t breathe. He goes to the doctor and gets a prescription for an asthma medicine.

Particulate matter gets deep in our lungs and stays there. It can be absorbed into the blood and cause or exacerbate cardiovascular problems. SO2 and particulate matter can also trigger severe asthma attacks.

Electrical generation does not have to be this dangerous to our community. Solar, wind, geothermal, and energy efficiency are safer alternatives. If you factor in the climate costs and health cost of fossil fuels, it is clear that cleaner energies are the lower cost options.

What is stopping the transition? Money. Bets on dirty energy investments win when carbon pollution is free.

Fossil fuel industries make millions off of our health. And in Missouri Ameren, Peabody Energy and the rural electric cooperatives are powerful political machines.

So how will we transition to a safer energy future? I find the quote from Dr. Suess in "The Lorax" to be words to live by: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

Organizations such as Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, Citizens’ Climate Lobby and are available to help educate and empower.

The EPA has begun the process of regulating the unlimited dumping of carbon into the atmosphere by our power plants, which emit nearly 40 percent of America’s CO2 pollution.

Missouri and every other state will be asked to develop a plan to reduce power plant emissions.

I encourage Gov. Jay Nixon to lead Missouri in creating a job-intensive, low-carbon plan that builds on our in-state abundant sun, wind and hydro-energy resources.

Juli Viel lives in O'Fallon, Mo.

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Ellis Smith April 1, 2014 | 7:14 a.m.

Just some notes:

If emissions are the primary concern, we DO have another option. We COULD replace the power plant cited with a nuclear facility. Of course that would add to a current problem of radioactive waste disposal.

The Sierra Club is mentioned. It's my understanding that Sierra Club and others have filed suit in California in a situation where wind turbines are causing significant deaths of birds, including one federally endangered species.

There is apparently a solar installation in the Southwest using a system where a large array of focusable mirrors directs concentrated sunlight at a tower filled with some sort of brine, not just water. The design was proposed to create clean energy years ago. It has been discovered that any birds in flight coming in contact the beams may die from intense thremal exposure.

One possibility APPEARING to be without such problems is geothermal, but it too may create problems. Everyone in Missouri surely knows that one of the four University Of Missouri System campuses will be operating using geothermal energy by 2015. To do so, it is NOT necessary to be in an area of obvious geothermal activity; you just have to drill lots of deep holes in the ground, which is not cheap.

Use of coal as fuel for electric generation in the United States is going to drop by half in the next few decades, regardless of any further regulations. A coal mining firm headquartered in St. Louis has moved most of its active operations to Australia. The coal being mined is probably going to China.

I have deliberately not taken positions on points made in your letter; for the most part I agree with them, but these matters aren't as simple as they are sometimes presented.

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