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Today I am officially turning over the blog reins to Mary Anne Hitt, the new Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign. She will now be blogging weekly on important coal and clean energy issues - so I urge you to bookmark her blog. Her first post is up now.

Mary Anne has been with the Sierra Club for two years, serving first as the Deputy Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign. Before coming to the Club, she was the Executive Director of Appalachian Voices and co-founded ILoveMountains.org, an online campaign to end mountaintop removal coal mining that received national recognition for innovation and impact.

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The comment period ends tomorrow for the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed federal safeguards for toxic coal ash.

Coal ash is the by-product of burning coal for electricity, and it contains a toxic mix of chemicals: mercury, arsenic, lead, chromium, selenium, and more.

We've been calling for strong federal safeguards from EPA during the comment period over the past few months. You've seen more than 2,000 people wanting protection from coal ash rally and then pack the eight EPA public hearings across the U.S. We've helped more than 118,000 concerned citizens send in their comments via email and postcard so far.

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Thu Nov 11, 2010 at 11:03 AM PST

New Coal Ash Hotline and Video

by Bruce Nilles

The comment period for the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed coal ash safeguards is winding down, with the deadline being next Friday, Nov. 19th. (Have you submitted your comment yet?)

But just because the deadline is approaching does not mean we're slowing our action on coal ash. It's toxic and must be treated as such.

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In a blog post this week, United States Export-Import Bank President Fred Hochberg paints a rosy picture of future trade relations between the United States and key emerging markets such as India and South Africa - one which envisions a revamped American economy fueled by export trade that feeds a growing middle class.

Yet despite this rhetoric, Ex-Im Bank is not only failing to finance a clean energy economy, but it is also saddling dynamic emerging markets with 19th century fuels by propping up an industry only able to survive in a 21st century economy through political maneuvering, enormous subsidies, and misleading PR campaigns.

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My colleague said it well yesterday in his response to Tuesday's election results - we will not cede our future to polluters, who again poured tens of millions of dollars into various campaigns.

No surprise here, the coal industry is part of those polluters throwing money around to support candidates who will keep the loopholes and handouts in place and help them block any action on global warming.

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This is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. This piece was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Sari Ancel.

Here's lovely daydream if you're from southeast Texas: It's a warm fall afternoon and you're out fishing on the banks of the Colorado River, listening to the sounds of birds migrating south.

Unfortunately, a proposed coal-fired power plant will soon ruin that daydream. There will be no fish to catch because their habitat has long been polluted. Those birds overhead will be flying through smoke plumes from the nearby coal-fired power plant. And forget a quiet afternoon, you'll be hearing the hum of that nearby power plant.

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Mary Anne Hitt, the new director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign, is a new mom and has some words for those trying to greenwash schoolkids and college students:

As a new mom, I'm paying more attention these days to how big companies are trying to influence our kids. I just learned that one of the biggest blockers of climate action in the U.S. is now bringing its obstructionism to your kid's middle school classroom. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy just released an energy education guide for teachers of 5th - 8th grade.

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Tennessee's Emory River has long been treasured for its natural beauty.

In 1867, when a young man by the name of John Muir decided to walk from his home in Indiana, all the way to Florida, he crossed the Emory River. Its beauty struck him, and he wrote the following in his journal (which became his famed book "A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf"):

"There is nothing more eloquent in Nature than a mountain stream, and this is the first I ever saw. Its banks are luxuriantly peopled with rare and lovely flowers and overarching trees, making one of Nature's coolest and most hospitable places. Every tree, every flower, every ripple and eddy of this lovely stream seemed solemnly to feel the presence of the great Creator. Lingered in this sanctuary a long time thanking the Lord with all my heart for his goodness in allowing me to enter and enjoy it."

Unfortunately, 141 years later, the Emory River would inspire sorrow.

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Hot off the presses: EPA just announced it is recommending rejecting the massive Spruce Mine in Logan County, West Virginia, for the simple reason that it can't comply with long-standing clean water protections. EPA Region 3 and Administrator Shawn Garvin recommended that the permit for Spruce be  withdrawn (read the recommendation in our press release).

In short, the proposed mountaintop removal coal mine would release huge amounts of toxic pollution into the state's waterways. That has been illegal across the country and today Lisa Jackson is proposing the same protections for Appalachia.  

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This is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. This piece was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Lydia Avila.

The community of Joliet, Illinois, identifies as many things - Midwestern, humble, and hard-working. Yet they also identify with something much less positive: being collateral damage. According to Joliet residents, they don't even merit a second thought to Midwest Generation, a coal-fired power plant that has been dumping toxic coal ash near Joliet for over 40 years.

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Thu Oct 07, 2010 at 09:35 AM PDT

Oklahoma Town Fights Coal Ash

by Bruce Nilles

This is the latest in our series of community coal ash profiles. This was written by Sierra Club Apprentice Flavia de la Fuente.

When a company named Making Money, Having Fun LLC (how's that for Orwellian?) applied for a permit for a commercial disposal facility to dump coal ash (along with waste oil and gas water) in eastern Oklahoma, they provided geographical maps and documents indicating that, pursuant to the Corporation Commission rules, there was no town of a population below 20,000 within three miles.

Except that's not true.

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The coal industry is a filthy business, but that doesn't stop the industry from spending a fortune on PR consultants to try and distract attention away from the costs it imposes on Americans every day. With labels like "clean coal" and "green coal," the coal industry's spinmeisters spend a lot of time and money trying to pretend coal is something it is not.  

Now in response to a successful campaign by the Sierra Club and our allies in the United States to stop the construction of new coal plants - we are up to 145 plants stopped - Peabody Energy - the world's largest coal company - is proposing to grow its market by shipping coal overseas to impoverished countries.

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