Yep, it’s 2013 in California- a state usually thought of as one of the most progressive in the country, yet there are plans (the temporary permits have already been issued) to build a brand new coal plant in California’s Central Valley.

For the non-Californians out there, the Central Valley is a much different place than the well-known cities, like San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Image from Angela Fardo

California’s Central Valley has some of the worst air quality in the country, a severe lack of water and is often referred to as  America’s Bread Basket.  This facility would further exacerbate the troubling trend in air pollution, it’s expected to use at least 4,600 gallons of water every minute and farmers are outraged at the potential toxic emissions, which could cover their livelihood with mercury.  And when we’re talking about “one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world” we’re not just talking about putting a few family farmers out of business.

So obviously, residents in California’s Central Valley are pretty concerned about about the proposed facility, for obvious reasons, primarily because it’s just a terrible idea.

Not only is coal a major contributor to climate change, the entire life-cycle of coal power drastically increases particulate pollution within the communities living near these dirty coal operations.  It’s estimated that 24,000 people die prematurely, each year, from pollution associated with coal fired power plants.

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The majority of environmental groups have launched mega-campaigns to lower our nation’s dependence on such a dirty energy source, and the battle against coal power has been around for decades.

So- how did we miss this?!

The short answer it that it’s not being referred to as a coal plant.

The Hydrogen Energy California (HECA) plant is slated for construction in Kern County, California and has even cleared the initial hurdles, receiving a draft air permit from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD).  The idea is that this plant will accept petroleum coke and coal, 300+ truckloads daily, and turn it into hydrogen fuel.  Ta-da, you have a brand new clean energy plant in California!

Isn’t this the same business practice that Stringer Bell used to sell drugs on the streets of Baltimore in The Wire, or more applicable the same strategy used by oil companies to market tar sands crude as ‘clean energy’?  It’s simple, if your product has a bad reputation in the public market, change the name.

And, coal has one of the worst reputations.

But- stay tuned for the long answer…………..