Oil spills and nuclear meltdowns hog the spotlight when we're talking energy disasters, but let's not forget about black, old coal here. Sure, coal does its worst over the long term: The dirty emissions coal plants pump out cause respiratory illness, asthma, even cancer, and they're the leading cause of climate change. So we almost forget about all the epic sludge disasters they cause too.
The massive coal ash spill that slammed Tennessee four years ago, for example, is still another two years and $1 billion away from finally getting cleaned up. The accident occurred when a containment dike broke at the Kingston Fossil Plant and loosed over 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash across the region and into the nearby Clinch River.
It displaced hundreds of families. It's making kids sick, and the toxic fly ash--a waste byproduct from burning coal that's supposed to be properly sequestered--still lines nearby riverbeds and probably always will. Meanwhile, the Tennessee Valley Authority, the government-controlled company that operates the plant, is still battling residents in court in order to weasel out of paying for the damages.
It's a nightmare. And it underlines the following truth: There's no good clean way to rely on fossil fuels for power. There just isn't.