NYT: The myth of Clean Coal is Dead!

The New York Times just editorialized that the myth of clean coal is dead. TVA killed it, after years of environmental justice activists battling the goliath with slingshots from the grass roots. We still gotta nail up the coffin though, and part of that is gonna be fighting the 2.5 billion Obama wants to give to coal research. Leave it in the Hole!

Collapse of the Clean Coal Myth

Published: January 22, 2009

A month of negative news for the Tennessee Valley Authority could lead to positive changes in national policy, including federal regulation of toxic coal wastes and new legal constraints on coal-fired power plants. More broadly, the authority’s recent travails may help persuade the public that coal is nowhere near as “clean” as a high-priced industry advertising campaign makes it out to be.
In December, hundreds of acres of Roane County in eastern Tennessee were buried under a billion gallons of toxic coal sludge after the collapse of one of the T.V.A.’s containment ponds. It was an accident waiting to happen and an alarm bell for Congress and federal regulators.
Senator Barbara Boxer of California noted that coal combustion in this country produces 130 million tons of coal ash every year — enough to fill a train of boxcars stretching from Washington, D.C., to Australia. Amazingly, the task of regulating the more than 600 landfills and impoundments holding this ash is left to the states, which are more often lax than not. Ms. Boxer will press the Obama administration to devise rules for the disposal of coal ash as well as design and construction standards for the impoundments.
Just as the T.V.A. was dealing with this mess, Lacy Thornburg, a federal district judge in North Carolina, ordered the giant utility to reduce emissions from four coal-fired power plants that had been sending pollution into North Carolina.
The ruling validated an unusual legal strategy adopted by North Carolina’s attorney general, Roy Cooper, who sued the T.V.A. in 2006 on grounds that pollution from its power plants in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky constituted a “public nuisance” to the citizens of his state. Mr. Cooper chose this route because the Bush administration had systematically weakened regulations that had been used in the past to force power companies to clean up their emissions.
Taken together, the coal ash disaster and Judge Thornburg’s ruling did much to undercut the coal industry’s cheery “clean coal” campaign, whose ads would have us believe that low-polluting coal is here or just around the corner.
It is neither. Coal is certainly an important fuel, providing just over half of the nation’s electricity. And progress has been made: new coal-fired plants are cleaner than old ones, and older plants that have been required under the Clean Air Act to install pollution controls are cleaner than the many plants that have managed to escape the law’s reach.
But coal remains an inherently dirty fuel, and a huge contributor to not only ground-level pollution — including acid rain and smog — but also global warming. The sooner the country understands that, the closer it will be to mitigating the damage.
A version of this article appeared in print on January 23, 2009, on page A22 of the New York edition.


Local, Local, Local

My ideal social ideology is libertarian socialism. I believe in localized, non-hierarchical, self-governed communities with shared resources and lack of oppressive social hierarchies that cause and reinforce harmful social dynamics. I think there are inherit flaws in capitalism that cannot be remedied with market-based or state-created solutions. This being said, I find the need to write on how this affects my everyday life and my activism.2378897283_f799b3b3e0_m1

In relating my ideal social ideology to most people, the immediate response is that the abolition of the state would never work because there would be chaos and power-hungry people which would result in mass-violence. Or they try to fit this ideology within the framework of electoral politics, also declaring it would never work. Of course libertarian socialism would not work in the context of our nation, that goes against its own definition and theory! No radical believes that libertarian socialism would be the ‘policy’ of a nation. It is highly localized and obviously cannot be ‘applied’ to a community from the top down. With that said, most of the radicals I know and work with believe that the creation of their ideologies in their own lives and communities will reduce the reliance on the capitalist economy at least on a personal level, and in theory will make the ‘state’  less powerful by the creation of alternative institutions and ideas.

Therefore, my actions lead not to the direct abolition of the state. The purpose of my activism is to do what is within my reach to end social and environmental injustice caused by or perpetuated by oppressive hierarchies and power dynamics, and to participate in the creation of non-hierarchical alternative institutions. Contrary to popular belief about anti-authoritarian activists, my activism is not centered around urgently trying to impose my ideal society in the current context of our nation, as that would be unrealistic, contradictory, and unproductive. Rather, my ideal social ideology serves as a framework for my community relations, friendships, projects, attention, and opinions.

Permaculture Experiment Photos

Here are some photographs to illustrate the post about the Harrisonburg permaculture project. More photos to come as we make progress!

Creating Alternatives: Local Permaculture Group Starts Backyard Garden

An informal community group in Harrisonburg, Virginia has come together with the mission of educating each other about small-scale sustainable food production; specifically with the goal of learning principles of permaculture through doing. The group has several permaculture experts and many permaculture beginners with a strong desire to learn. Meetings have consisted of informal workshop sessions including one on medicinal plants, as well as planning sessions of a backyard garden space. The group’s meetings have recently been transformed into workdays to create that garden as the weather has turned.

Installation of a rainwater collection system with rain barrels took place several months ago. More recently, the group constructed a raised bed to resist the incompatibility of many desired plants with the black walnut tree in the backyard. A “keyhole” style ground garden was also prepared. A compost pile with organic kitchen waste as well as donations from various sources collected by a group member is being utilized in this process, teaching the gardeners through experience (and research!) about how to create and maintain healthy and useful compost.

Some vegetables that were started inside and transplanted outside are already sprouting. Carrot, onion, and lettuce seeds have been planted directly into the ground. More seeds have been started inside to be transferred out, and many more seeds will go directly into the ground in coming weeks and months.

This garden is a wonderful step to build experience and share productive quality time in a wonderful community. It is important to recognize the value of sharing important skills like food production in order to create alternatives to corporate factory agriculture with its harmful environmental and social effects. This garden is by no means an entire solution, but rather a step in the right direction for positive change and learning how to take care of ourselves.

Updates and pictures to come!

Mountain Justice Summer Needs You!


Come to Virginia to defend the mountains and all the life that dwells therein!

From May to August of 2008, Blue Ridge Earth First! will
be hosting volunteers in Virginia to work on the Mountain Justice
campaign to end mountaintop removal coal mining. Currently the main
focus of our work in Virginia is in challenging Dominion Power’s
proposed coal-fired power plant in Wise County.

Other issue foci include the sustained efforts to pressure Bank of America and Citi to
pull their funding out of coal and holding solidarity actions against
Richmond-based Massey Energy for their endless MTR, sludge, labor and
human-rights assaults on our friends in West Virginia and Kentucky.

Our state is also currently dealing with proposed expansions to a
nuclear power plant and a corporate and government interest in mining
Uranium in the southern central part of the state.

Activities will include:
– demonstrations and direct actions. (such as small-scale things like
banner drops and Bank of America protests as well as larger-scale
non-violent direct actions targeting Massey and/or Dominion.)
– gardening and dumpstering
– cooking and eating together
– organizing and promoting educational events (speakers, movies, etc.)
– fundraising
– participation in the planning collective for the Southeast Climate
Convergence (site scouting and prep, outreach and promotion,
– ongoing workshops
– making stuff (stuff for rallies, stuff for fundraising, stuff for
just being alive)
– renovating a house (campaign house in Appalachia)
– building a cob house (Appalachia)
– working on sustainable farms

– and other ideas as well (such as yours)

Activists in Blacksburg, Harrisonburg and Appalachia (also a town, not only a region) are prepared to host volunteers. In all these communities lodging will be camping in the backyard or on nearby public lands (national forests, etc.). Appalachia will potentially have some house space as well. We have no budget for food but we will be able to grow and dumpster much if not all of what we need. There is no fee for participation in Mountain Justice Summer 08 in Virginia but folks are expected to contribute to group expenses such as travel and food according to one’s own capacity. (Upon contacting us we can have a more extensive discussion about funds and other details of Mountain Justice Summer projects.) Ideally we would like a commitment of two and a half to three months starting with the Mountain Justice Action camp in Eastern Ky, May 17th – 23rd, culminating with the Southeast Convergence for Climate Action in central Virginia at the end of July and beginning of August and calming down a bit thereafter.

We have a particular need for folks who can bottom-line gardening projects with the goal of feeding ourselves and our allies.

For more interest or if you’re already sure you want to come spend some time with us, contact BlueRidgeEF@yahoo.com and let’s talk.

Blue Ridge Earth First!