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St. Louis NAACP Says Shifting From Coal To Renewables Would Benefit African Americans

Véronique LaCapra, St. Louis Public Radio

The local NAACP says air pollution from coal-fired power plants is having a disproportionate impact on the health of African Americans in the St. Louis area.

The civil rights organization joined the Sierra Club, Missouri State Senator Jamilah Nasheed and others on Wednesday to rally in favor of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

The group gathered at the Urban Chestnut Brewing Company in Midtown. The craft brewery has installed solar panels at both of its St. Louis locations to help reduce its carbon footprint.

The president of the St. Louis NAACP, Adolphus Pruitt, said air pollution from coal-fired power plants and other sources is having a devastating effect on people of color.

“Every day, somewhere in the city of St. Louis and all over the country, you’ve got some child who is suffering from asthma or some other respiratory disease," Pruitt said.

According to 2011 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black children were about twice as likely as white children to have asthma. Another report by the St. Louis Regional Health Commission found that black children in the St. Louis area were 7.5 times more likely to visit the emergency room because of asthma than white children (see pp.39-40).

Pruitt said he wants utility companies to shift away from coal to cleaner sources of energy like solar and wind.

“It’s going to be expensive, but we have to get there," Pruitt said. "And I think the lives of all the people who [are] impacted by it [are] worth it.”

A report released earlier this year by the NAACP found that more than two-thirds of African Americans nationwide live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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