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Toxic Journalism - 10/07

By Rich Trzupek
  Another Sunday and another hit piece by that fraud of a journalist Michael Hawthorne pollutes Page 1 of the publication that used to be the Chicago Tribune. Some things never change.
  We really, really, really need to stop pretending that journalists are independent, unbiased transmitters of information whom would never be so boorish as to use their position to engage in ax grinding. With very few exceptions today’s journalists are not observers, they are cheerleaders. Sometimes they’re even players.
  It is safe to assume that if you count on the MSM as your primary source of truthful information about a topic, you are misinformed. You’ll get selected portions of the truth from these charlatans, but only by accident will you get truthful coverage.
  Anyway, back to Messr. Hawthorne’s latest assault on truthful journalism. The headline read “Decisions cloud goal for clean energy”, with the sub-head “Illinois remains one of the nation’s biggest coal suppliers”.
  The essence of the tale that followed was that J.B. “Jabba the Guv” Pritzker was failing to shut down Illinois coal mines. Rather, his administration was actually ENCOURAGING them to remain open by allowing the second largest coal mine in the state to discharge TOXIC waste into one of our precious rivers. Further crippling Illinois coal would OBVIOUSLY help fight global warming as Illinois is the fourth largest coal producing state in the union and it’s not like people who burn coal or use it as a raw material could buy from one of approximately two gagillion coal mines located in the US and a plethora of other nations. Once Illinois coal shut down, all the plants using it would magically disappear!
  Let’s play a little game I just made up called “Mike is right, but…” to demonstrate once again how his selective use of pieces of truth results in a story that contains facts, but is not factual.
  Michael says: “…only Wyoming, West Virginia and Pennsylvania mined more coal last year than the 45 million tons from Illinois. Mike is right, but… Wyoming, West Virginia and Pennsylvania account for a little over 58% of the nation’s coal production. Illinois produces about 7% of the total, a bit ahead of other small contributors like Indiana, New Mexico and Kentucky. We get it: Michael hates coal. But, the truth is Illinois is a relatively minor player and has been for quite a while.
  Michael says the mining company, Foresight Energy “…wants to build a pipeline for “contaminated” water seeping into its Pond Creek mine…” Mike is right, but…” the implication is that this pipeline is going to increase water discharges from the mine into the local tributary system. It is not. Foresight asked for permission to increase the number of outfalls (discharge points) for its runoff water from eight to eleven. That’s actually good for the environment.
  Michael says that burning coal “…is a major source of lung-damaging pollution…” linking to a Scientific American article that ties coal-fired power plant emissions to fine particulate pollution. Mike is right, but… Coal-fired power plants are only a major source of fine particulate pollution if one limits sources to industrial activity alone. EPA data clearly shows that industrial activity of all kind contribute to only about 15% of fine particulate emissions nationwide, and most of those emissions are so dispersed that they have an almost infinitesimal impact on the air we breathe. The other 85%? About 5% comes from mobile sources like cars, trucks, etc. The rest is classified as being generated by area sources, a category that includes everything else like camp fires and open-burning, but the majority of which is classified as biogenic (i.e.: natural).
  Michael describes the Big Muddy, the waterway that will act as receiver for one of the new outfalls as “impaired”, a term of art in the regulatory world that means it does not meet some water quality standard(s). Mike is right. The Big Muddy is impaired, but… the Big Muddy is not impaired for any of the pollutants identified in Foresight’s permit, save dissolved iron. And the permit has this to say about the tiny amount of dissolved iron in the new outfall: “Iron (dissolved) is only a fraction of the Iron (total) and will meet the water quality standard at the end-of-pipe or at the edge of the mixing zone.”
  Michael says Foresight wants to “…dump millions of gallons of toxic waste into a Mississippi River tributary…” I cannot even give Mike a “right” on this one. This is a totally incorrect, irresponsible statement. By no one’s standards, not even the ridiculously pristine standards that Mike’s Sierra Club pals selectively apply to projects they don’t like, can this discharge be described as “toxic”. It’s not only not toxic, it’s drinkable!
  The two main pollutants in the discharge are chlorides and sulfates, which water that runs through the mine picks up as it flows toward collection ponds. The World Health Organization has studied both and concluded that “no health based guidelines” were needed for either. The only concern is to make sure that discharging into the river does not create localized hot spots that could affect aquatic life. This will be done through dispersion and creation of mixing zones, a technique commonly used in the water quality world.
  I could go on, but hopefully by now you get the idea. The only thing “toxic” in this story was the writer’s disregard for telling the truth.

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