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Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

Amid big losses for the more progressive candidates on the Texas statewide ballot, Denton residents voted to ban fracking within city limits.  This is the first fracking ban in Texas.  The ballot language was:

SHALL AN ORDINANCE BE ENACTED PROHIBITING, WITHIN THE CORPORATE LIMITS OF THE CITY OF DENTON, TEXAS, HYDRAULIC FRACTURING, A WELL STIMULATION PROCESS INVOLVING THE USE OF WATER, SAND AND/OR CHEMICAL ADDITIVES PUMPED UNDER HIGH PRESSURE TO FRACTURE SUBSURFACE NON-POROUS ROCK FORMATIONS SUCH AS SHALE TO IMPROVE THE FLOW OF NATURAL GAS, OIL, OR OTHER HYDROCARBONS INTO THE WELL, WITH SUBSEQUENT HIGH RATE, EXTENDED FLOWBACK TO EXPEL FRACTURE FLUIDS AND SOLIDS?

Frack Free DentonClearly, the people of Denton were convinced that this is the best way to protect their health, safety and quality of life.  The science strongly supports this view.  The environmental and health impacts of fracking are numerous, severe and some are long lasting.  Releases of toxic pollutants into the air are making people sick in the short term and causing long-term health impactsWater pollution from fracking operations poses health risks and hardship on people whose water supply is destroyed.  Billions of gallons of water are removed from the hydrological cycle when Texas is already struggling to meet its water needs.  Ejection wells in some areas are causing earthquakes.  On top of all that, methane leakage from fracking, natural gas processing, and transportation of natural gas is contributing to climate change.

There will be legal challenges to the Denton fracking ban, and possibly legislative action to try to roll it back.  That’s where the rest of us who care about protecting human health and the environment come in.  We can’t leave Denton residents to fight alone.  This is not a problem that is unique to them, and it’s one that we all contribute to by using natural gas.  Our individual and community decisions are impacting real people in serious ways.  Natural gas is not a clean or harmless energy choice.  Its use should be minimized as much as possible.  That includes moving away from natural gas-fired power plants, not building more of them.

Even if Denton’s fracking ban stands up to legal challenges and avoids legislative destruction, many communities in Texas will continue to suffer the impacts of fracking.  Denton has the benefit of being an urban area with a significant student population.  The Eagle Ford area, on the other hand, is largely rural and less affluent and residents find themselves powerless against the rampant fracking around them.  The community advocates who worked to pass the fracking ban in Denton deserve an incredible amount of credit for their work, as do Denton residents for making the smart decision to protect themselves.  Now we must not forget about those left on the front lines of fracking who are less able to organize to protect their health, their land, our shared water resources, and the climate.  We need a Sharon Wilson for every fracked community.

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Around the country, citizens are demanding action on climate change policies.  Recently,  Florida’s Clean Energy Future — a coalition of clean energy, business, Hispanic, faith, community and academic leaders throughout the Sunshine State  –worked across the state to raise awareness about the threat of climate change and to urge elected officials like Governor Rick Scott “to develop a strong plan for Florida to meet the requirements of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.”  And, across the state concerned Floridians have responded. On Monday, that response reached a crescendo when they delivered 92,217 petitions to Governor Rick Scott.

The signatures were delivered to the governor’s office by school children pulling little red wagons filled with boxes of signed petitions and college students and parents — about 30 people in all. Holding signs like “Dirty Power Makes Me Sick,” “Protect Kids,” “Our Health is at Risk!” and “Clean Power Plan Saves Money,” the kids, college and adults made their concerns known and their voices heard on climate change.

Jordan Myatt, a young student from Tallahassee, said:  “We’re all citizens and we’re all people, and either way, it’s going to be affecting adults and kids, so I think it’s adults’ and kids’ problem. Global warming caused by pollution is something that is a big problem now and needs to be fixed. We’re just going to keep pushing it and pushing it…We need to stop it now. It’s already the glaciers melting and the sea level rising.”

Adi Chauhan, age 9, of Tallahassee, added: “The weather will be affected too. The summers will get warmer and the winters will get colder, so it’s time to fight against [climate change]…Climate change is happening and it’s real — it’s happening right now.”

Daniel Corbett, a 21-year-old senior majoring in environmental sciences at Florida State University said: “Today’s action, delivering these petitions to our state capitol and legislature made clear to our elected leaders that climate change and energy policy is no longer just an issue for tomorrow. It is an issue for today.” Corbett added: “It doesn’t matter whether you identify as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, what faith you follow, where you call home, what language you speak or how much money you make, because climate change, pollution, whether our energy is dirty or clean, that is all of us.”

Susan McLeod, a mother and pharmacist from Tallahassee, said: “We have now over 91,000 signatures from folks all around Florida who also see the effects of climate change in our state. We ask the governor today to jump on board and help Florida to develop a plan to reduce carbon pollution.”

Clearly, the folks, both young and not so young, quoted above “get it” on what the problem is and what needs to be done.

Make your voice heard, tell the EPA that you support a strong Carbon-Cutting Standard – The EPA recently announced the first-ever standard to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Add your voice in support of cutting carbon from our largest source of climate change-causing pollution.

 

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EPA Workshop for Communities with Environmental Justice Concerns on Rule to Reduce Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants
(online participation available)

 October 30, 2014
8:30 am – 5:00 pm ET
7:30 am – 4 pm CT

Crystal Gateway Marriott
1700 Jefferson Davis Highwayz
Arlington, VA 22202

 On June 2, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) Proposed rule. This rule proposes state-specific goals for reducing carbon dioxide from the power sector; states will then need to make plans to meet the goal. The proposed rule also promotes clean and renewable energy options. This is a federal rule that will have important implications for state air and energy policies. The EPA  welcomes stakeholders who have environmental justice concerns to participate and share perspectives about how the rule can be reflective and responsive to the needs of environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities across the country.  Most of us cannot travel to Virginia to attend the workshop, but the EPA will make online participation available and registration information is listed below.

If you are interested in learning how you can help your state achieve cleaner air, reduce the impacts of climate change, and promote renewable energy sources, it is important that you understand the Clean Power Plan. You have an opportunity to help shape this rule…come learn how!

We encourage you to take advantage of this 1-day workshop, which will:

  • Provide an overview of the Clean Power Plan proposed rule.
  • Prepare participants to engage effectively in the public participation process.
  • Provide information about the elements of the CPP that are important to communities with environmental justice concerns.
  • Provide information about how to participate in the public comment process, which is open until December 1, 2014

To register for this event in-person or online via Adobe Connect, click here

Special Notes about Online Participation:
  • If you plan to participate in this workshop online, you must register in order to receive the information to participate in the workshop
    • In your registration, you must indicate that you are participating online “via Adobe Connect”
    • You will receive the information to participate in the workshop by October 29th, 2014
    • Only a limited number of webinar slots are available (130 slots) if several of you from your community want to participate, we recommend you gather at a single location and register just for your group.

 

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melting earthEarth is now on pace to tie for the hottest year ever recorded. The first nine months of 2014 have a global average temperature of 58.72 degrees, tying with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.  Last month the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit making September the hottest in 135 years of record keeping and the fourth monthly record set this year,that includes May, June and August.

So we are on track for  2014 to break the record for hottest year.  Earth hasn’t set a monthly record for cold since December 1916, but all monthly heat records (and there have been a few) have been set after 1997.

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satellite-image-of-the-methane-hotspot_1_NASA and University of Michigan scientists have discovered a massive cloud of methane that spans 2500 square miles (about the size of Delaware) located above the the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

The atmospheric methane concentration of methane in that area is equivalent to 1.3 million pounds of emissions a year, which is 80% higher than EPA estimates.  This is the largest concentration of methane in the United States.  It was so large in fact that scientists “weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” but they recently verified the levels of methane in the affected area.

Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor attributed the dramatic methane emissions to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin.  The San Juan Basin is the most active coalbed methane production area in the US.  The coalbed methane covers the pores and cracks in coal.  As this methane seeps out from underground coal mines, it causes fatal explosions almost yearly.

While the methane concentrations in that area are not an immediate health risk to the local inhabitants, it has significant implications for climate change.  As a greenhouse gas, methane is 86 times more potent in its atmospheric effect than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after release.  25% of human-induced global warming is caused by methane emissions in the environment.

As the U.S. considers transitioning from coal to natural gas as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is critical that accurate assessments of leaking methane are accounted for in all calculations.  If leakage of natural gas isn’t greatly reduced, switching fuels may make little or no difference in combating climate change.  This methane hot spot should serve as a warning that other undiscovered leaks are probably out there and having a significant impact.

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China Heat Wave- US China Daily Australia experienced record-breaking temperatures and many other countries are experiencing uncharacteristically intense heat waves. Whether or not these events are related to climate change has been questioned in the past, but has recently come to light as something that is very probable.

Recently, researchers and scientists come up with the phrase “extreme event attribution” which acts as a unit of measure for the extent to which these weather events are human-caused. For instance, according to extreme event attribution, the heat wave in Korea was 10 times more likely due to human caused climate change. Scientists want extreme event attribution to be in real-time by the end of 2015.

The American Meteorological Society recently released a bulletin based off of 22 case studies. It concluded saying that high temperatures made heat waves more intense and more likely and that the emission of greenhouse gases is causing these extreme weather events. Recent heatwaves in Australia, Korea, Japan, China, and Western Europe are all judged to be due to climate change. The National Climate Assessment also made a connection between climate change and the drought in Australia.

The impact of climate change seems clear, with China experiencing its biggest heat wave in 140 years August of 2013, during which at least 40 people died. Health effects of heat waves range from heat strokes to aggravated chronic diseases. The heat also increases ground-level ozone levels, causing lung injury and increasing the severity of respiratory diseases.
(more…)

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2014-09-29 Austin Mayoral Candiate Forum on AE Issues - YouTubeOn Monday, we concluded our series of Austin City Council and mayoral candidate forums.  Over the course of two and a half weeks, we heard a variety of views on Austin Energy issues from an astounding 54 candidates.  On top of that, 49 candidates submitted responses to our questionnaire on Austin Energy issues.

Many of our Austin supporters joined us in person for the forums, but for those of you who weren’t able to make it out to your district forum or the mayoral forum, we have posted all of the videos on a special Austin Elections page of our blog. Or you can view them directly on the Public Citizen’s Texas Office YouTube channel.

If you care about climate change, shutting down polluting power plants, expanding the use of solar energy, energy efficiency, preserving our water, or keeping electric bills affordable for low-income customers, you’ll want to check out the Austin Council candidate forum videos for your district and the mayoral race.  Get the information you need to make an educated vote on November 4.

Public Citizen didn’t host these forums on our own.  We were joined in this effort by the SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development), Sierra Club, Solar Austin, Texas ROSE (Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy), Clean Water Action, Austin Climate Action Network, Texas Drought Project, First Unitarian Universalist Green Sanctuary Ministry, and the Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church.  Many thanks to everyone who helped with the forums, especially former Austin Mayor Will Wynn for moderating the mayoral forum, Progress Texas deputy director Phillip Martin for moderating the districts 6 and 10 forum, and Treehouse for donating their space for the districts 5 & 8 forum.

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Wildlife Decline Graph - from The GuardianResearch published in a new report by the World Wildlife Foundation and the Zoological Society of London found that the population of wild animals on Earth is now half of what it was in 1970. Freshwater species have seen an even more dramatic decline of 75%.

The researchers concluded that the decline in wildlife populations is due to human activity: unsustainable hunting, pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Though climate change in this report accounts for 7% of the loss of wildlife in the past 40 years, climate change’s impact on the Earth’s ecosystem is expected to dramatically increase.  Some experts estimate that a-fourth of the Earth’s species could be extinct by 2050 due to the effects of climate change.

Climate change will also have negative impacts on humans.  Global temperatures are projected to rise 4 degrees by 2100.  In the hotter months of the year we can expect exposure to temperatures above 38 degrees Celcius (100ºF) on a common basis, which can cause organ damage and death.  Crops and livestock will struggle with the rising temperatures and water shortages.  Humanity’s staple crops, corn, rice, wheat and soybeans have a temperature limit of 40 to 45 degrees Celcius (104ºF to 113ºF), “with temperature thresholds for key sowing stages near or below 35 ºC (95ºF).”

The current human consumption of natural resources is unsustainable.  Climate change exacerbated by human activities at this rate is detrimental to both wildlife and the human species.  At this rate, we can expect to see the collapse of ecosystems on which we depend for our survival.   The scientists behind these various reports hope that these statistics and projects will serve as a wake-up call to ramp up conservation efforts and mitigate the effects of climate change and our exploitation of the environment and its resources.

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Renewable RoundupThe Renewable Energy Roundup & Sustainable Living Expo is a full 3 day event on September 26th, 27th, & 28th at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, TX.

Booths will feature products and information on:
• Renewable energy resources; solar, wind, biomass and other resources and services – The Public Citizen booth will offer information on solar energy.
• Smart Grid solutions available to homeowners now
• Green Building and remodeling
• Sustainable transportation solutions
• Tips for improving health and well-being
• Insights on organic gardening and cooking, tree care and soil care
• Climate Change innovation
• Texas water conservation and drought solutions
(more…)

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The Climate Reality ProjectClimate Reality Project - Be the Voice of Your Generation is dedicated creating a healthy and sustainable future by making a global shift from fossil fuels to renewable energies. This year, they’ve decided to give a voice to the generation that will be most impacted by climate change by hosting a video contest and rewarding the winner a trip to the U.N. Climate Summit in New York on September 23 as a representative of the Climate Reality Project.

The U.N. Climate Summit is a day-long event that will feature some of the world’s leaders discussing environmental issues and solutions. Serving as a public platform for all UN Member states, finance, business, and civil society leaders from public and private sectors, the event will be educational and progressive as leaders from around the world work together to address the climate issues.

To participate, contestants must post a video to YouTube or Instagram asking “Why? Why not?” about a climate issue (Ex: Why are we still burning fossil fuels? Why not switch to clean renewable energy and protect our future?) and talk about the issue in under one minute. Six winners will be chosen and flown to New York to watch their video get played to the leaders of the world at the U.N. Climate Summit opening ceremony.

The project is global and winners will be selected based on their passion and the relevance of the issue. Contestants must be between the ages of 13 and 21 to participate.

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2050 Weather Forecast

The World Meteorological Organization, the United Nation’s weather agency, challenged international weather media to come up with a futuristic weather report for September 28, 2050 as part of their call for government and business leaders to agree to ambitious action on climate change at the U.N. Climate Summit on Sept. 23 in New York.

The Weather Channel took up that challenge and Sam Champion walks us through what that might look like.

Click here to watch their futuristic weather report.

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As Austin prepares to enter a new phase under 10-1 governance (10 Council members to represent geographic districts and 1 at-large mayor), many voters may find themselves overwhelmed with the large number of candidates to chose from.  A whopping 78 candidates filed to run for City Council this year.  District 3 alone has 12 candidates.

2014-08-21 Austin City Council and Mayoral Candidate Forums on Austin Energy - image for blogSo how do you, as a voter, choose between so many options?  We aren’t going to tell you who to vote for, but we are helping you get some of the information that you might want when making that important choice.  Along with some of our local allies, we are hosting a series of candidate forums focused on Austin Energy issues that are free and open to the public.

  • Districts 6 & 10: September 12, 6 – 9 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 8001 Mesa Dr, Austin, TX 78731
  • Districts 2 & 3: September 19, 6 – 9 p.m., Austin JATC Electrical Training Center, 4000 Caven Rd, Austin, TX 78744
  • Districts 1 & 7: September 20, 12:30 – 3:30 p.m., Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Dr, Austin, TX 78757
  • Districts 4 & 9: September 22, 6 – 9 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave, Austin, TX 78756
  • Districts 5 & 8: September 23, 6 – 9 p.m., Treehouse, 4477 S. Lamar Blvd, #600, Austin, TX 78745
  • Mayoral: September 29, 7 – 10 p.m., First Unitarian Universalist Church, 4700 Grover Ave, Austin, TX 78756

If you don’t know which district you are in, you can look it up. Type in only your street address. For example, if you live at 1234 Barton Springs Rd, Apt 44, type in only “1234 Barton Springs Rd.”

While there are many important issues facing Austin, we believe that governance of Austin Energy will remain one of the single most important responsibilities for any City Council member.  Valued at $3.8 billion, Austin Energy is the City’s most valuable asset.  In addition to providing power for the city, its residents and businesses, Austin Energy revenue to supports city operations such as parks, infrastructure, EMS, firefighters and libraries.

Candidates will be asked to respond to a series of questions relating to Austin Energy, including questions on climate change, energy sources, affordability and governance of the utility.  The public is invited to attend to learn more about the candidates.

Let us know that you’ll be at one or more of the forums.

Participating organizations are: Public Citizen, SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development), Sierra Club, Solar Austin, Texas ROSE (Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy), Clean Water Action, Austin Climate Action Network, Texas Drought Project, First Unitarian Universalist Green Sanctuary Ministry, Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church

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WMO GH Gas Bulletin CoverAccording to the annual report of the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nation’s weather agency, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2013.  CO2 rose to global concentrations of 396 parts per million last year, the biggest year-to-year change in three decades. That’s an increase of 2.9 ppm from the previous year — and is 42 percent higher than before the Industrial Age, when levels were about 280 parts per million.  The report also said the rate of ocean acidification, which comes from added carbon absorbed by oceans, “appears unprecedented at least over the last 300 million years.”

Our climate is changing, our weather is becoming more extreme due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and time is not on our side.  Click here to read the WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

 

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Gathering line fire from a rupture near Alice, TX in 2010.  Photo from Texas Rail Road Commission Archives

Gathering line fire from a rupture near Alice, TX in 2010. Photo from Texas Rail Road Commission Archives

NBC News has been investigating the danger that gathering lines (the pipeline installed to get natural gas from fracking sites to storage facilities and major transportation pipelines) pose to rural residents who live near the fracking sites and whose land the gathering lines crisscross with little to no regulatory oversight.

Click here to read NBC’s article resulting from their investigation”Danger Beneath: ‘Fracking’ Gas, Oil Pipes Threaten Rural Residents“.

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City sets ambitious solar goal, path to zero carbon pollution from Austin Energy by 2030

Some of the Affordable Energy Resolution community supporters celebrate with Councilman Chris Riley, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution.  Photo by Al Braden.

Some of the Affordable Energy Resolution community supporters celebrate with Councilman Chris Riley, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution. Photo by Al Braden.

A diverse coalition of groups representing workers, people of faith, low-income residents, clean energy supporters and environmental advocates united in their of goal of expanding affordable clean energy and protections to public health cheered the Austin City Council for adopting the Affordable Energy Resolution late Thursday evening.

The resolution comes after years of community-led work to study Austin Energy’s portfolio and generation plan, identify opportunities to strengthen the municipal utility’s clean energy and climate commitments while meeting the needs of low-income communities and after community members demonstrated strong demand for more affordable clean energy and less pollution on a reasonable but aggressive timeline.

The Affordable Energy Plan calls for Austin Energy to generate more than 60 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025 and eliminate carbon pollution from its generator fleet by 2030. It directs the utility phase out the Decker gas-fired power plant by investing in 600 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 100,000 homes.

“Solar is now cheaper than building a new natural gas plant. Our analysis shows that 600 megawatts of solar will save Austin Energy between $12 and $33 million per year,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group. “We’re grateful for the strong leadership shown by Council Members Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Kathie Tovo, Laura Morrison and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.”

The landmark resolution also takes significant steps to expand local solar power.  It doubles Austin’s local solar goal to 200 megawatts, with half of that goal reserved for distributed residential and commercial solar projects. And the resolution expands access to rooftop solar projects by including solar leasing as an option for residents and businesses and by refining Austin Energy’s innovative value of solar tariff.

“Local solar creates local jobs.  The Austin solar industry already employs more than 800 people and many of those jobs are in solar installation and can’t be outsourced,” said Kaiba White of Solar Austin.  “Money spent on local solar goes back into our local economy.  Allowing people from all walks of life to benefit from solar is a win-win for Austin.”

A separate resolution was also passed to establish a task force to make recommendations on expanding the utility’s energy savings goal and ensuring that energy efficiency services are provided to people of all income levels. Energy efficiency is the most easily deployed, lowest-cost option for meeting energy needs and will be a critical component of meeting climate goals for the utility.

The City of Austin has long been a leader in Texas and nationally. The City announced its plans to power all city buildings and operations with Texas wind power in 2012, and earlier in 2014 Austin Energy announced a new solar power project at the lowest cost in U.S. history. In June 2014, the Austin City Council became first elected body in the nation to endorse the goals of the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to curb carbon pollution that drives climate disruption.

“The impacts of a rapidly changing climate are clear in Central Texas and as a progressive community we have a moral obligation to lead in reducing our carbon footprint while providing clean, affordable electricity to our people, businesses and churches,” said Reverend John Elford with the University United Methodist Church of Austin. “This resolution sets us on a path to meet both those needs.”

The Decker natural gas-fired power plant is a major contributor to smog pollution in Travis County. Replacing the plant with clean solar power will cut smog and improve air quality for the more than one million residents in the county, protecting children, seniors and people suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“In its opposition to this resolution, Austin Energy continued the tradition of marginalizing the communities near Decker by citing money as a primary concern at the expense public health. By passing this resolution, City Council members have finally recognized that every Austinite should have the right to clean air. That this is an issue of justice and that it is an issue of equality,” said Mayte Salazar-Ordonez, a volunteer leader with Austin Beyond Coal.

As Austin Energy develops its plan to meet the goals of the Affordable Energy Resolution, building new gas- or coal-fired power plants will not be an option, representing an opportunity to move beyond traditional power plants and further tap Texas’s renewable energy potential.

The coalition will now look to secure timely retirement of the Fayette coal-fired power plant to meet the city’s carbon pollution elimination goal as well as to cut the soot, smog and mercury pollution coming from the plant that impacts local communities, farms and waterways. Nationwide, 178 coal-fired power plants have been announced for retirement as clean energy solutions like wind, solar and energy efficiency have cut air pollution, lowered costs for consumers and created jobs.

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