Members of both the Sierra Club and the Murray Environmental Student Society met Saturday for a single purpose: to weaken Kentucky’s coal industry.
The organizations co-sponsored the Western Kentucky Coal Conference in the Curris Center to discuss issues associated with coal usage in Kentucky and to develop a message to get public attention.
“Our state is spending more money to keep the coal industry on life support, than what the industry is actually providing. It’s a net loss,” Thomas Pearce, associate regional organizer of the Louisville Ky., chapter of the Sierra Club, said.
The event started with an introduction by John Walker, senior from Nicholasville, Ky., and Claire Fuller, professor of biology, members of the Great Rivers Sierra Club, as well as Gene Nettles, Ben Taylor and Rodney Berry of the Public Life Foundation.
A panel discussion followed in which members from the different environmental groups discussed the impact of coal on Kentucky’s health and environment. Renewable energy and green jobs were discussed as was renewable and sustainable energy.
The event ended with creating messages for the public to inform about the impact of coal throughout the state.
According to the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development’s study, the net impact of the coal industry on the Kentucky state budget is around $115 million for 2006, and in 2008 the coal industry employed around 1 percent of Kentucky residents.
“Every time someone says we deserve clean air, the coal industry says (environmental groups) don’t care about jobs,” Pearce said.
Allison Crawford, junior from Murray, who attended the day-long conference, said, it was surprising to learn how inefficient coal actually is.
“Ninety-seven-and-a-half percent of the energy from coal is wasted, getting it from its mined state to actual use,” Crawford said.
Elizabeth Crowe, executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation and member of the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA) in Berea, said Kentucky is at a tipping point, and the need to correct the impact from coal is crucial. She said safer and cleaner alternatives are needed.
KEF’s Clean Solutions for Kentucky’s Dirty Problems, a pamphlet on the group’s mission, stated more than 90 percent of Kentucky’s electricity comes from coal, which causes health and environment problems, from the mining to burning to disposal of toxic wastes.
Emissions from power plants have known effects on the environment and health of Kentucky.
“Coal power plant emissions like soot, heavy metals, greenhouse gases, and ozone-forming chemicals are particularly deadly,” the document stated.
KySEA lobbied for the Clean Opportunity Act (HB 239) in 2011 in the state legislature, in its efforts to improve Kentucky’s environment and health.
Mary Lou Marzian, democrat Louisville lawmaker, lobbied to establish a renewable energy portfolio standard in Kentucky but no action was taken on HB 239.
KySEA plans to reintroduce the bill in 2012.
“We believe this bill will create local jobs and grow Kentucky’s economy and save money for Kentucky’s families,” Crowe said.
Pearce said alternatives to coal include solar, wind, hydro and natural gas. All proven to be less dangerous to the environment through collection and use.
The conference ended with participants, led by Pearce, deciding to continue the conference at a later date this year. No exact date has been determined.