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Coal ash poses real threat to residents

May 26, 2012
The Inter-Mountain


I was appalled by your editorial of May 2, in which you were critical of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., for opposing Rep. David McKinley's, R-W.Va., coal ash amendment to the Transportation Bill.

Coal ash contains high levels of arsenic, lead, mercury and boron, each of which has been known to cause cancer, neurological and development problems, and other illnesses, as disclosed by a 2002 EPA Report that was suppressed by the George W. Bush Administration (

Taxpayers for Common Sense have identified over $19 billion in federal tax subsidies to the coal industry nationwide. (

West Virginia citizens additionally subsidize coal on a personal level, through increased air and water pollution, ill health and shorter life-spans. According to the Annals of the N.Y. Academy of Science, Full Cost Accounting for the Life Cycle of Coal, "Each stage in the life cycle of coal - extraction, transport, processing and combustion - generates a waste stream and carries multiple hazards for health and the environment. These costs are external to the coal industry."

The study estimates that these external costs to the U.S. public amount to a third to over one-half of a trillion dollars annually.

Instead of decrying Sen. Rockefeller's standing up for the health of U.S. citizens, we should all be thankful to him for being concerned about our health.

I have no relationship to Sen. Rockefeller other than being a resident and citizen of West Virginia. I am not opposed to the coal industry, but I think it should pay its fair share of the costs, including the external costs indicated in the above-referenced report. The coal industry has the option of passing on these increased costs to the consumers of electricity, whether they are in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, such as China, where West Virginia coal is exported. It is unfair to expect West Virginia Citizens to subsidize these external costs through poor health and shorter life spans.

John E. Huerta




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