Pulitzer Prize winner discusses coal pollution


Pulitzer Prize winner John Blair speaks Monday to the Bloomington Area Sierra Club at the Monroe County Public Library. Matt Gehl Buy Photos

The Bloomington Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter invited Pulitzer Prize winner John Blair to speak at the Monroe Public Library Monday night. Blair is a journalist, speaker, educator and public health advocate. He is the president of Valley Watch, Inc., an organization of the lower Ohio Valley area.

His speech, titled “The Environment in Indiana, Where Do We Go From Here?” highlighted environmental issues, such as Indiana’s background in coal-related population and political regulations.

“I moved to Evansville and freaked out because of the coal mining,” Blair said. “It was so unusual, but then I learned, it wasn’t unusual.”

When he came to Indiana, Blair was immediately introduced to coal mining and coal plants.

“I was watching these huge machines dig up nearly 175 cubic yards of dirt, 24 hours a day,” he said. “The natural environment gets really messed up in mining.”

After watching these power plants destroy the Earth each year, Blair said he became an environmentalist and advocate for change in Indiana’s ecological issues.

Blair said Indiana is a huge contributor to the world’s climate change, Bloomington included.

The plant located near IU exports 649 tons per year of carbon dioxide, 355 tons of carbon monoxide and 40 tons of hazardous air toxins.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Gold Change Research Program, Illinois’ high coal emission levels could put the state at the same climate area as Texas by year 2040. Blair cited the study because he said Indiana is almost identical to Illinois in terms of emission levels.

“The emission levels have gone down 20 percent in the area in the last couple of years, but it is still a large contributor of coal emission,” Blair said.

In 2004, a study by Valley Watch showed Indiana has greater coal emissions than Kentucky and Illinois, exerting more than 136,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide  per year. Blair said the present numbers have not changed much since the 2004 study.

Blair got a reaction from the crowd with the news that Rockport, a southern Indiana town, is one of the most toxic communities in the United States and the world.

“Rockport has the two dirtiest steel companies in the world,” Blair said. “The town releases 24,135,428 pounds of coal emissions per year and is one of the largest water polluters in the country.”

Though Indiana contributes to the coal pollution problems, the state and the country are beginning to implement energy-efficient techniques, Blair said.

He said future plans to help save the Earth are being made.

Blair said plans for solar-powered cars, ecologically efficient light bulbs and the placement of solar power panels on community buildings are being fulfilled throughout Indiana.

“Ball State is currently switching over to geothermal energy,” he said. “That is something we need IU to think about.”

Ball State is using a geothermal heat pump system, a heating and cooling system that uses the Earth’s ability to store heat in the ground, according to the university’s website.

“He is an environmental warrior,” said Tom Mooradian, a leader of the Bloomington Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter. “His speech reflected on the great environmental issues that people who love the outdoors care about and are concerned with.”

The Hoosier Chapter is an organization that protects Earth’s ecosystems and resources.

The local chapter promotes regular lectures and speeches on environmental issues, promotes volunteerism in Bloomington and invites residents to environmental activities, such as hiking and camping in Indiana’s campgrounds.

Chandra Romel is a Bloomington resident and member of the environmental group, the Southern Indiana Renewable Energy Network, or SIREN.

She was told about the event and the work of John Blair through SIREN.

“I am a member of the SIREN Network,” she said. “I am interested in his information on solar energy because I am planning on installing solar panels on my house.”
Blair said waste is rewarded in this society.

“The most successful people have the biggest boats and drive the Hummers,” he said. “Everyone has waste. I have waste. Just decreasing it as much as we can is the

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