Coal is not healthy for kids. As one U.S. study found, “Closing coal-fired power plants can have a direct, positive impact on children’s cognitive development and health” (See “If you want smarter kids, shut coal plants“). Hence, Coal for Dummies.
Perhaps the only thing worse for kids than living downwind of a major coal plant is living downwind of coal itself. As the BBC reported in February (see Chinese birth defects “up sharply”), “A senior family planning official in China has noted an alarming rise in the number of babies with birth defects”¦. The coal-mining heartland of Shanxi province had the biggest problem.”
Do coal companies have any responsibility to directly protect children from the harmful effects of air pollution? Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) thinks so, but Massey Energy thinks otherwise, as Think Progress explains.
The Marsh Fork Elementary School in West Virginia sits just 300 feet from a Massey Energy coal silo and “downhill from a slurry impoundment.” Massey’s plans to build a second silo are facing “protests from environmentalists and some residents over the threat of flood and claims that children are exposed to coal dust, among other things,” especially because the company is refusing to build a new school, away from the toxic chemicals. Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) is taking Massey to task for its “disregard for human life and safety“:
“Such arrogance suggests a blatant disregard for the impact of their mining practices on our communities, residents and particularly our children,” Byrd said in a statement. “These are children’s lives we are talking about.” [...]
“If Massey were not operating near Marsh Fork Elementary, we would not be debating what to do about moving these young students someplace safer,” Byrd said. “This is not the taxpayers’ burden to remedy. This is Massey Energy’s responsibility to address.“
Massey has criticized Byrd’s comments, noting that the school district never asked the company for funding. (Regardless, Massey has said it has no interest in donating any money because it already “pays millions of dollars in taxes each year.”)
For more on what Massey and the coal industry have really given West Virginia, go here.