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Debating the Environment: MO Urged to Pay Attention to Candidates' Claims

Coal ash underground dumping in Kansas City. Photo credit: Claus Wawrzinek. Courtesy of Missouri Sierra Club.
Coal ash underground dumping in Kansas City. Photo credit: Claus Wawrzinek. Courtesy of Missouri Sierra Club.
October 3, 2012

ST. LOUIS - President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney face off in the first of three debates tonight, and environmentalists from Missouri and around the nation want to know what they plan to do about climate change.

More than 100,000 people have signed petitions urging debate moderator Jim Lehrer to press both candidates about their energy policies. Ed Smith, safe-energy director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, says he'll be watching for specifics - not just slogans.

" 'All of the above' and 'Drill, baby, drill' are not good energy policies."

Finding out where all candidates stand on climate change is important, Smith says, especially since 80 percent of Missouri's electricity comes from coal-fired power plants. He says coal plants not only pollute the air but also the water with coal ash - the toxic waste from the plants that has leaked out of storage ponds into the environment.

Any candidate who doesn't address climate change is ignoring scientific evidence, says Smith, pointing out that more than 90 percent of scientists believe climate change is real and caused by the use of fossil fuels. He says a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists has proved that Missouri is getting hotter.

"They went back for the last 60 years and looked at weather data - temperature data from 3 a.m. and 3 p.m., every single day for the last 60 years - and found that we are actually, indeed, getting warmer here in the Midwest."

Smith wants to know that the candidates are serious about letting the Environmental Protection Agency do its job. He's concerned about dozens of coal-ash dumping sites near Missouri power plants that he says are polluting the water with such toxins as arsenic, mercury and lead.

"The ponds are unlined and unmonitored. Unfortunately, one of Ameren Missouri's coal ash ponds in the Missouri River floodplain in Labadie, in Franklin County, was leaking 50 gallons a minute for 19 years."

Ameren officials called the leakage "minor" and said fears about water pollution are unfounded.

Smith says coal ash and air pollution need to be regulated by the EPA, and advises Missouri voters who are concerned about the environment to pay close attention to the debates. He also suggests they look online at the Sierra Club's candidate ratings.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - MO