Coal protestors gather in St. Louis
November 19, 2007
More than 100 citizens from across the Midwest held a rally on November 17, 2007, across from Peabody Energy headquarters in downtown St. Louis to protest the company's proposed coal-burning power plants and liquid-coal projects that would accelerate the pace of global warming. The demonstration was especially timely because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has just released a major report emphasizing that the impacts of global warming, if left unchecked, will be much more severe than previously believed. Farmers, renewable energy advocates, students and conservationists gathered in Kiener Plaza to demand that Peabody get in line with nationwide efforts to curb carbon dioxide (CO2 ) and other pollutants that contribute to climate change. Environmentalists believe that, if built, Peabody's projects would be the biggest new sources of global warming pollution built in more than 20 years.

"Just three of Peabody's proposed projects would emit as much global warming pollution as seven Northeast states are planning to eliminate from power plants there," said Verena Owen with the Sierra Club's National Clean Energy Campaign in Illinois. "As a nation, we can't afford to let Peabody obliterate the progress that other states and regions are starting to make."

The Prairie State coal-burning power plant that Peabody wants to build near Marissa, IL is one area project of concern. Several Washington County, IL residents who live near the site voiced their fears about having a huge polluting coal plant for a neighbor, and said Peabody could do better.

As a favor to utility and coal industries, America's largest mercury dischargers, the EPA sat for nine months on a report exposing the catastrophic impact on children's health of mercury, finally releasing it in February 2003. Among the findings of the report: The bloodstream of one in twelve US women is saturated with enough mercury to cause neurological damage, permanent IQ loss and a grim inventory of other diseases in their unborn children.--John F. Kennedy Jr. quoted from an article, "The Junk Science of George W. Bush." (The Nation, March 8, 2004). --Editor's note.

"In almost every decision Peabody has had to make in the design of the Prairie State power plant—whether it was location, technology, water usage or transmission lines—we believe Peabody chose the one that was perhaps cheaper for them, but more destructive of the environment," said Kathy Andria of the American Bottom Conservancy based in East St. Louis. "The most destructive decision of all was to release 12 million tons of CO2 each and every year for who knows how many years. But Prairie State and other projects have not been built yet, so there's still time for Peabody to get it right."

Speakers highlighted to wind and solar as renewable energy solutions that create zero pollution. Wind farms have begun to generate power for Springfield, IL, northwest Missouri, Iowa, and other Midwestern states. Wind turbines create additional income for farmers who lease their land.

"Coal ruins land, water, and communities," said Jim Scheff of St. Louis, spokesperson for Missouri Forest Alliance and Heartwood. "There's no such thing as 'clean coal'. It's time to move on."

During the rally, one Santa Claus handed out colorful pinwheels representing clean wind energy, while another Santa gave out dirty lumps of coal. A musician led the crowd in a heartfelt rendition of John Prine's classic ballad "Paradise" which laments how "Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away".

"We must not let Peabody haul our future away," said Emma Ingebretsen, who traveled all the way from Madison, WI to voice her concern. "Climate experts say we must act now to address global warming, and we want to make sure Peabody gets that message."

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