Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Importing pollution isn’t good for our air.
The sound of local music is.

Something Different in the Air
An evening of local jazz to benefit

to promote clean energy solutions near Waterloo

Thursday, June 1st
7:30 pm
The Cellar, 320 East 4th St.

Effie Burt
The Paul Kresowik Group with Chris Merz

Come enjoy food, friends, and great local jazz

Which would you prefer?
CleanAirWaterloo@gmail.com http://www.cleanairwaterloo.com/

Donations can also be sent to:
PO Box 3405
Iowa City, IA 52244-3405
Please write Clean Air Waterloo in the memo line of any checks

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Books About Coal

Three Revealing Books about Coal

Got your summer readings figured out yet? Well, let me just say that you will find the following three books fascinating.

1. Coal: A Human History by Barbara Freese
The main fuel of the industrial revolution, this lowly black rock has shaped the human experience and our world. This wonderfully written short book will familiarize you with the history of coal, from the “Great Stinking Fogs” of London, to coal mines of Pennsylvania, to Beijing. The author worked as an Assistant Attorney General of state of Minnesota, where she enforced her state’s air pollution laws and along the way became fascinated by coal and the larger story behind the smoke. I would start with this book.

2. Lost Mountain by Erik Reece
People say, “we have enough coal for the next 300 years!” We see the coal trains, or a pile of coal near a power plant, but the extraction of coal is out of our sight and therefore out of our mind. Journalist Erik Reece writes about his month-by-month witnessing of the complete destruction and removal of a single mountain in Kentucky. The threat of drilling for oil in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge in Alaska has periodically generated much news. But the devastations to the people and entire watersheds caused by “mountaintop removal” have not generated much national news. The excellent journalism that is the basis of this book won the Columbia University School of Journalism’s 2005 John B. Oaks Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism. Very readable, with a foreword by Wendell Berry.

3. Missing Mountains, an edited volume by Wind Publications
I was recently in Kentucky and this book is a compilation of short writings by Kentuckians to reveal the destruction of Kentucky by the careless coal-mining companies. People of this book deal with the harsh reality of mountaintop removal everyday: wells going dry from mine blasts, damaged foundations, devastated watersheds, severe floods, air pollution, and other “acts of God” (as the state government officials tell the people).

These three books help us imagine and better understand what the electrical socket on the wall is really connected to.

Coal is “cheap” because lots of real human and ecological costs (revealed in these books) are ignored and not counted. Like Enron accounting. Reading these books has brought home to me, again, that coal-burning and energy wastefulness should force us to deal with a deep moral issue: how much longer will we take part in the coal story?

Not too long ago, child labor was common in this country, slavery was common. And both, like cheap coal, were very “economical” too. But, at some point, we decided they were morally wrong, and we did not want to do it anymore (at least not in this country). We have long ways to go to admit to ourselves that it is our wasteful ways that is creating the need for more and more electricity, for more and more troublesome coal mining and coal burning.

Is it possible to generate electricity without so much devastation? Yes, but we have to get a grip on our unlimited wants. Last week, I visited the three small river powered generators on the Cedar River, downtown Waverly. The Waverly Light and Power has operated these units since the early 1920s, and they still work just fine. The generator room was so silent, so impressive. And the whole operation was truly non-smoking! Many Iowa towns used to have river powered mills and later river powered electrical generators.

“Cheap” coal made it possible for many cities to abandon these renewable energy sources. But now once again, Cedar Falls, Waverly and many other communities are reconsidering renewable energy sources like wind energy. And, acknowledged or not, at the root of this shift is a moral consideration, a land ethic.

Kamyar Enshayan can be reached at 273-7575 or kamyar.enshayan@uni.edu

Friday, May 12, 2006

The Pep Rally

The public informational meeting required by the Iowa Administrative Code was held last night at the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center in Waterloo. Iowa Utilities Board attorney Gary Stump presided over the meeting, at which LS Power's new Elk Run plant manager, Mark Milburn (mmilburn@lspower.com; 888-317-6567) and his associates attempted to answer questions.

The public's legal right to question the developer in a public meeting was cut off only an hour or so in by Attorney Stump who declared that it was turning into a "pep rally". In the face of critical questioning of LS Power by a large and angry crowd, Stump ended the open forum in spite of vigorous protests from the assembled citizens and sent everyone with unasked questions to LS Power's "open house" at the back of the convention hall, where it was impossible for the crowd to hear the answers to each person's questions.

Clean Air Waterloo will be protesting this regulatory violation with the Iowa Utilities Board and demanding a public meeting that provides a full and open forum for all questions to be asked and, we hope, finally answered.

There is no reason to be discouraged by yesterday evening. This will be a long process, and we have not yet begun to fight.

Monday, May 08, 2006

2,000+ Signatures

Local citizens are making their voice heard, and that voice is a resounding "No!" to the proposed power plant east of Waterloo . In just a few short weeks, volunteers, faith congregations, and some local business owners have received more than 2,000 signatures on a petition opposing the plant. "I am all for economic development, but I believe that if everyone would go out to the web http://healthandenergy.com/coal.htm and do some research on coal fired power plants, they too would understand these plants are not a good long term economic investment. Don't stand by while Waterloo city officials trade our clean air, water, land and health for tax dollars. Get on line and get the facts. This concerns everyone in a hundred mile radius of the proposed plant location," says Gail Mueller. Mr. Mueller, who has been collecting the signatures, lives just a few hundred feet from the proposed site off Newell Street .

The petition isn't the only way the community has been expressing their opposition to the plant. Yard signs with the word 'NO' emblazoned prominently are appearing around the area. "It is critical at this point that people make their opposition visible through yard signs or by contacting their local and state elected officials. This is our home, our children are growing up here and this plant will for sure do long term damage to our region. There are alternatives to this. We should not have to put up with it," says Kamyar Enshayan, a member of Cedar Falls City Council who opposes the proposed plant.

Citizens oppose the power plant because of its impacts on the local community, not in spite of them. Those impacts include decreased air and water quality, increased health risks, decreased property values, increased traffic, and other public concerns. "This proposal is very different from the MidAmerican coal-fired power plant currently under construction in Council Bluffs. MidAmerican chose an existing industrial site, not a greenfield taken from some of the best farmland in the world. MidAmerican is investing heavily in renewable energy sources like wind, to balance their coal-fired generation. And MidAmerican has a track record in Iowa. We know what kind of corporate citizen they are. None of this is true with LS Power," says Carrie La Seur, an attorney specializing in environmental law. MidAmerican Energy recently announced plans to build an additional 545 MW of wind capacity in Iowa.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Tale of Two Megawatts

A few Sundays ago, the Waterloo Courier featured a front page article about the proposed 750 megawatt coal burning power plant. It mentioned the $851,000 in tax dollars it was expected to bring to Waterloo city hall, plus some for the County, and some for Dunkerton schools. Numerous residents of the area have expressed serious concerns about the troublesome health issues caused by such a plant.

On the same weekend, the Daily Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa ran a front page story about a power company which has proposed to generate electricity using a local resource—wind. The 215 megawatt wind turbine project is expected to add $1 million in tax revenues to Carroll and Crawford counties, plus $367,000 in annual royalty payments to land owners where the wind turbines will be located.

So, here we have two communities, both interested in quality of life, economic development, jobs, and revenue to local governments. Each community is considering a proposal for additional electric power generation. With these commonalities as the starting point, each community can make choices that will lead to vastly different futures.

In the case of a 215 megawatt wind turbine farm near Carroll, land owners will not be displaced, they will be receiving a reasonable rent, and there will be significant jobs and tax revenues to the local community. ISU economist, David Swenson, has documented that each $1 million direct sales of wind energy generates much more economic activity than $1 million of coal burning power plants.

Not to mention multiple other benefits: no two-mile long coal trains coming and going through neighborhoods, no coal dust, no coal burning, no air pollution, no globe-warming gases, no increased in asthma cases, no mercury in our lakes, no coal mining, no mountain top removal in Kentucky. In other words, fresh-air economic development, without headaches and worries.

Now, contrast that with a situation where you allow a coal burning power plant. It is amazing how much powerlessness a power plant can bring to an area! You have disgruntled land owners and neighbors, use of eminent domain to force people away from their homes, and laws that have been weakened to prevent local people to participate in the decision process. And then, 10 years later you have chronic respiratory illnesses and polluted lakes all around. Honestly, can these be called “economic development”?

Same megawatts, but completely different histories, politics, local and global health effects.

But what do you do when it is not windy? (Well, then you have a “no-wind” situation.) It turns out that many locations in Iowa are indeed windy enough to meet a significant portion of a frugal energy demand. A recent study by the Iowa Policy Project documented how numerous public schools in Iowa are meeting nearly all their annual energy needs from the wind turbines they purchased and installed in their schoolyards. The payback period has been very short, even in a not very windy place like Eldora, Iowa.

A diverse set of energy sources (wind, direct solar, solar thermal, biomass, and even occasional use of coal if available) can meet most of our electrical and heating needs, even during no-wind situations, if we stop being such energy slobs.

It does matter how those megawatts are generated. And here in Iowa we have choices. We actually can choose our future energy-wise.

Dr. Kamyar Enshayan is a mechanical engineer and works at University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy and Environmental Education. He can be reached at 273-7575 or kamyar.enshayan@uni.edu

Yard Signs

Yard signs are available! We have 1,000 signs to put up around the area. This is a great way to make your opposition to the power plant permanent and visible.

Contact Kamyar Enshayan at 266-5468 or enshayan@yahoo.com for a sign. We are also asking for a $5 donation to cover the cost of signs and other material.

If you are near Dewar, Gail Mueller also has signs. Also, all petitions should be sent to Gail:

Gail Mueller
5729 Newell St.
Waterloo, Iowa 50703
or call Gail at 319-269-9777 or email at grmue11@aol.com

Monday, May 01, 2006

Canvass this Weekend

We will be organizing an area-wide canvassing drive for petition signatures (and letting people know about the event on May 11th) this weekend. Please email cleanairwaterloo@gmail.com with your name, address, and when you can help if you are interested in canvassing. Also, if you have already done some canvassing, please let us know where (exact streets) you have already gone so we don't hit the same area twice. There will be a press release with our new petition numbers on Monday, May 8th.