Clean coal — an oxymoron if ever there was one. Karl Koehler’s letter to the editor (“The assault on coal,” Tuesday’s Steamboat Today) about how clean our air is and our coal-burning power plants brings to mind an experience I had two winters ago. My wife drove me to the airport in Hayden at about 7:30 a.m. on a beautiful, clear February morning. Turning off U.S. Highway 40 and driving up to that first rise, we were not prepared for what we saw. As soon as we topped the rise, the whole landscape, in every direction and only in the downwind flow from the coal plant, was solid black. It was a stark contrast from the snow-covered ground we had been driving through. Black. Coal black. It was a shock.
Getting up to the right turn to the airport, the ground returned to snow white. It obviously just was in the downwind line of the plant. Is this an occasional occurrence? And when the snow eventually melts, what happens to the black? It definitely goes into the soil. Has it been absorbed by plants, animals, gardens and streams? Waiting for my plane, I called the paper and said they should send a photographer out to record this. I never saw or heard anything.
Coal is necessary, for now. But it is dirty and toxic. You may not see the pollution in the air, but it is there. And it is a factor in climate change. I don’t know why or how often this happens, but even once is a pretty scary thought.