White Paper Proposal 2- Coal and Society

Shawn Poynter for The New York Times

In my first proposal, I discussed the potential impacts that policies regarding coal-fired power plants have on businesses.  Basically, policies like the Clean Air Act limit the amount of pollution that coal mining and coal-fired power plants can release into the atmosphere and the environment.  Because of this, mines and plants are forced to limit their output and lower their profits. These regulations also relate to coals impact on society.

The societal view on coal mining and coal-fired plants has two sides.  One is the people who are unhappy with coal energy because it causes health issues.  The other side is the workers who are fighting to keep coal mining and coal-fired plants in business in order to keep their jobs.  There have been many studies done that prove that coal mining and firing can be very dangerous, but it is hard to simply get rid of tons of jobs in order to choose a healthier alternative.

I found a few sources that support the argument that coal mining and coal firing are bad because they cause major health issues.  The first source is a study that uses data from about 16,500 West Virginians who live in close proximity to coal mining.  They found that typically, the closer you live to a mine, the more likely you are to experience health risks.  Some of the common health risks were cardiopulmonary disease, lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, black lung, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, kidney disease, diabetes, and arthritis (Hendryx, 670).   More specifically, another study conducted on West Virginia citizens found that, compared to people not living in coal-mining communities, people who live in coal mining communities have a “70 percent increased risk of developing kidney disease, a 64 percent increase risk for developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease… and are 30 percent more likely to report high blood pressure” (Williams, 1). While these are health risks related to coal mining, there are also certain health risks related to coal-fired power plants.  The American Lung Association conducted a study and found that these types of power plants emit hazardous air pollutants including toxic metals like arsenic and lead, mercury, dioxins, chemicals known to cause cancer like formaldehyde, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride.  The three key facts that the article cites are that coal-fired power plants release more hazardous air pollution into the atmosphere than any other industrial pollution sources, the Clean Air Act is required to control pollutants that are omitted, and the more than 400 plants across 46 states release more than 386,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants into the atmosphere every year (Emissions reduction…).  According to an article about coal mining in Kentucky, people who are connected to the coal industry are fighting to keep it alive.  Often times, all of the men in an extended family will work in either coal mining or a coal-fired power plant, so losing their jobs would be devastating for their whole families.  Everyone in mining towns rely on coal for work and money (Lipton).

This information definitely provides a strong basis for a discussion of the impacts that coal mining and coal-fired power plants have on society.  Personally, I think that I would side with the EPA in their efforts to minimize coal power production, but I could use both arguments in my analysis.

All of the sources are reliable because they either came from a Bucknell provided search engine or from a reliable newspaper like the New York Times.



Emission reduction; american lung association report highlights toxic health threat of coal-fired power plants, calls for EPA to reduce emissions and save lives. (2011). Energy & Ecology Business, , 40. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/857222898?accountid=9784

Hendryx, M., & Ahern, M. M. (2008). Relations between health indicators and residential proximity to coal mining in west virginia. American Journal of Public Health, 98(4), 669-71. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/215090378?accountid=9784

Lipton, Eric. “Even in Coal Country, the Fight for an Industry.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 30 May 2012. Web. 08 Nov. 2012. <http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/business/energy-environment/even-in-kentucky-coal-industry-is-under-siege.html?pagewanted=all&gt;.

Williams, W. (2008). New study says health risks greater in coal-mining communities. The State Journal, 24(12), 7-7. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/220047389?accountid=9784


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