Report Highlights Coal’s Effect on Health, Pushes for Clean Energy Legislation

by Erica Peterson on January 24, 2012

A report from a statewide environmental group catalogues the effects of coal and various renewable energy sources on human health. The analysis concludes that generating more of Kentucky’s electricity with renewable sources will result in healthier residents.

The report by the Kentucky Environmental Foundation outlines the ways coal can harm human health—from the hazards of working in a coal mine to breathing particulates emitted from a coal-fired power plant.

There are effects associated with renewable energy too—like silicosis caused by mining silica to make solar panels—but the report points out that those are much less documented. Even so, the report concludes replacing some of the state’s electricity with renewable sources will help Kentuckians’ health.

The report recommends legislators support the Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a bill introduced in the General Assembly to require certain percentages of the state’s electricity to be generated from renewable or efficient sources.

Representative Mary Lou Marzian is the bill’s lead sponsor. She says she knows it will be a hard sell in Kentucky—where more than 90 percent of the energy comes from coal.

“We all understand that it is going to be a learning curve and that as businesses and chambers of commerce want to bring in solar panel producers or geothermal installers, these are jobs that are going to be good jobs and high paying jobs for Kentucky and you start getting a critical mass and the tide turns,” she said.

Marzian doesn’t think the legislation will pass this year, but she says she’ll keep working on it until it does.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” she said. “I’d like to have done it 10 years ago but I’ve learned that sometimes things take awhile. But I think we have to work with our coal folks and give them reassurance that looking at renewables can be synergistic with the coal industry.”

The Kentucky Environmental Foundation plans to send copies of the report to every lawmaker and the governor in an effort to drum up support for Marzian’s legislation.

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