The US utility Ameren Missouri should be walking on sunshine right now. The company has just announced its second rate cut this year, thanks in part to its new “Smart Energy” plan which is loaded with clean tech goodies. Instead, Ameren Missouri is facing the wrath of environmental groups and local residents over its plan for dealing with tons of ash left over from its coal power plants. Clean coal my foot!
coal ash is the toxic material left over when coal burns. It can be re-used in various ways but it is loaded with mercury, arsenic and other materials. The worst thing to do is store it indefinitely in unlined, open air ponds or lagoons, often by a river or stream.
Basically, it’s cheaper to cap old ash pits than excavating all the ash and putting it into more secure containment, though that leaves the pesky issue of groundwater contamination to sort itself out.
The coal ash problem will continue to bedevil the "clean coal" label, regardless of whether or not utilities reduce carbon emissions.