Neurobiology professor to discuss hazards of coal power
Burning coal for heat and power exacts a devastating toll on human health, according to advocacy group Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT). The group plans to spread that message on Feb. 15 with a seminar on the effects of coal pollution. Alan Lockwood, an emeritus professor of neurology at the University of Buffalo will deliver a lecture, “Toxic Threat: Coal and Your Health,” that will be the highlight of the seminar.
Coal is an energy staple in Alaska’s Interior. UAF
operates a coal-fired power plant that has experienced problems in recent years. Aurora Energy, LLC — a subsidiary of Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy — burns coal to generate power it sells to Golden Valley Electric Association (GVEA) among other customers. Yet “emissions from burning coal damage the body’s respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems,” according to ACAT.
Lockwood is a member of the American Neurological Association and serves on the board of Physicians for Social Responsibility. He’s authored hundreds of studies and papers, many about environmental toxicants, according to Heidi Zimmer, ACAT’s environmental health coordinator. Among his publications is “Coal’s Assault on Human Health.”
Aurora Energy President Buki Wright said the company plans to cooperate fully with the EPA during the process, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
“We’re in compliance with everything we need to be in compliance with,” Wright said. “We believe we’re operating conscientiously and are conscientious neighbors.”
However, Lockwood is among the industry’s greatest detractors.
“Air pollution is now linked to six of the top seven causes of death among Americans,” Lockwood wrote in a Buffalo News editorial last year. “In 2009, the National Research Council reported that the hidden costs of burning coal to produce electricity were $62 billion each year or about $156 million for each coal plant. These costs were largely due to sulfur dioxide emissions…and their adverse effects on health.”
A reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Wood Center Ballroom will precede Lockwood’s 7 p.m. lecture. The Anchorage-based ACAT is hosting Lockwood’s talks in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Palmer and Homer.