A coal power plant uses coal to produce energy. A waste coal plant produces energy by burning waste coal piles that have accumulated from 1900-1970, but these plants produce more pollution than burning coal alone. If coal is not burned it is left in piles and harmful elements are released into the air and waterways in the surrounding area creating problems such as acid drainage. There are currently 18 waste coal power plants around the world, 14 of them being in Pennsylvania alone. However, another use for waste coal that has been found is growing beach grass. These grasses have been found to thrive in waste coal soil.
In a Pennsylvania town, the Sithe Energy Company has spent millions of dollars on a $550 million power plant near the Quehanna Wild Area. It will burn waste coal even though this is known to generate a large amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Department of Environmental Protection supports the plant because of its alkaline fly ash that will neutralize the acid mine drainage. The Sierra Club is protesting this plant because they believe its financial and ecological costs outweigh its benefits. The benefits are that this type of plant will consume waste coal that is currently adding pollutants to streams. Also, the methane that will be released into the atmosphere is worse then the amount of carbon dioxide released. These three plants will emit 8 million pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
Other benefits include its contribution to the areas economy. The Sithe Energy power plant will add one billion dollars to this economy. It will also reduce its emissions by 90% compared to older plants. The Sierra Club has initiated the National Coal Campaign to fight these waste coal plants. The plants will eventually make global warming worse and harm families in the area.
While I agree that using waste coal would help eliminate the effects it is currently putting on the environment, the release of more carbon dioxide would harm the environment much more. Other uses of waste coal should be found instead such as the growing of beach grass.
-- Jessica Noratel