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Fact-Checking the Utility Bill Scare Tactic Ads

PHOTO: The coal industry is igniting debate in Michigan over EPA standards to limit air pollution that has been connected to climate change and health issues. Photo credit: helicopterjeff/morguefile.com
PHOTO: The coal industry is igniting debate in Michigan over EPA standards to limit air pollution that has been connected to climate change and health issues. Photo credit: helicopterjeff/morguefile.com
May 23, 2014

LANSING, Mich. – The coal industry is generating heat in Michigan over an advertising campaign criticizing new federal standards to limit air pollution that has been connected to climate change and health issues.

The ads claim the new rules mean higher electricity bills and other economic harm.

Joyce Stein, a retired neonatal nurse from the University of Michigan Health System, calls the ads misleading.

She says research shows that carbon pollution from coal plants is a costly public health issue, increasing the risk of premature births and a host of problems for children.

"There's many studies from even the Detroit area where there's coal-burning power plants, where increased pediatric admissions for asthma, kids having trouble breathing," she points out.

The ads are from the National Mining Association.

Stein says she feels any investments coal companies would have to make to install new technology would be money well spent if it meant less pollution and fewer associated health problems.

And surveys show that 64 percent of Americans would be willing to spend more to invest in cleaner energy.

Stein says the notion that coal is the cheapest way to produce energy simply doesn't tell the whole story.

"Coal companies don't seem to ever want to take into effect all of the health care costs that go into breathing the emissions that come from coal plants, and just all of the pollution that goes into extracting it, processing it, and transporting it," she points out.

Nick Mullins, a fourth-generation coal miner, ties the issue to both health and wealth.

"By reducing demand using energy efficiency, we can lower electric rates and produce more jobs and provide a cleaner future for our children that doesn't include a lot of the health issues that they're currently having to face," he says.

The Environmental Protection Agency is set to issue rules to require existing coal-fired power plants to limit carbon pollution.

More than 70 percent of coal plants in the U.S. are 30 years or older, according to the Congressional Research Service.


Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI