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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.

Image from

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…………..

Residents of Seward, Alaska are concerned about elevated levels of coal dust in the air surrounding their community. They’re fighting for strict regulations and state of the art controls to contain the coal dust coming off of the Seward Coal Export facility, and into their community.

Ray Kidd, a community leader in West Oakland, California talks about the air quality concerns in his community and how Global Community Monitor helped them out with the bucket brigade.

Being downwind of Central Valley California’s notoriously dirty air is enough cause for concern, but when you’ve got 70,000 vehicles including 18,000 trucks passing through on the freeway every day, it’s enough 

Hold your breath....

to make you choke!  That’s why a determined community group, the Tri-County Watchdogs, has begun testing the air themselves – to find out what they are breathing and to do something about it.

The Watchdogs secured a grant from the Rose Foundation to work with GCM to monitor the particulate pollution and diesel soot that blows into their communities, schools and homes.
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How would you fight back?

California’s San Joaquin Valley suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the US, second only after Los Angeles in terms of short- and long-term particle pollution. This pollution drifts up a narrow canyon connecting the valley floor to pristine mountain paradise communities, such as Frazier Park.

To add to this pollution burden, the middle school is located adjacent to I-5, the main transportation corridor between Northern and Southern California. It has been documented that 18,000 trucks pass this middle school every day.

Watch the video to see how Frazier Park community members are fighting for clean air.

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