I am a long-time resident of the city of Independence (since 1962) and am concerned about the health and welfare of residents. I am a hospital pharmacist and have over 40 years experience in health care sectors – my primary personal and professional concern is public health. It is because of this concern that I am writing this letter: I feel compelled to speak out about the health impacts and “externalized” costs of burning coal.
I live within a mile of IPL and am concerned about the public health risks associated with the toxic gases and the slurry pond that IPL produces. There is a small creek that runs in close proximity of the plant. The creek runs from west to east, under the new bridge on Bly Road, and empties into the Little Blue River. There are also a number of crop fields very near the plant. As I live near this area I have a personal interest in the environmental impact that the plant may have locally and therefore the health of all the residents near there. But I am just as concerned about the environmental impact for the entire city and beyond as the public health of all of us is at risk.
Coal is often described as the most affordable source of electrical power we have. This is only true when you ignore the public and environmental health issues that surround burning coal. Who pays for the people that develop chronic bronchitis from breathing in coal dust? The taxpayer. Who pays for the premature deaths that are caused by coal-related toxins? The taxpayer. The source of the graphic below is The Clean Air Task Force. The numbers speak for themselves.
Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from the Blue Valley Power PlantType of Impact
Deaths 11 $79,000,000
Heart attacks 17 $1,900,000Asthma attacks 200 $10,000
Hospital admissions 8 $180,000
Chronic bronchitis 7 $3,100,000
Asthma ER visits 13 $5,000
At the end of the agenda of a city council meeting I read the question, “Is it good for the children?” My answer is that clean energy is good for the children. I will just close by saying, in summary, that when health and environmental costs are included the cost of clean energy is less costly than any fossil fuel. The use of clean energy will also make our city more livable and cleaner.
This is why I fully support the city council’s well-informed step in passing Councilman Scott Roberson’s resolution calling for the closure of the two Independence coal plants. This resolution also calls for a rate study that, for the first time in six years, will ask Independence Power & Light why we have some of the highest electrical rates in the state and will critically reassess why we pay so much for electricity that is making us ill.
Thank you, Independence City Council and IP&L, for making bold moves in the right direction. I sincerely hope that the resolution does everything that it can and should to protect Independence citizens and future generations.