7/25 Coal Plant Project Update

This summer, I am working on a research project for a Postdoctoral Fellow in the ENSP program at William & Mary. She gave me the task to collect data relating to the geostrategy behind coal plants in the United States, as she looked into the economic implications.

I found data on all of the Senate conference nominees since 1987 and filtered the list for those that have a say in energy and environmental issues. There’s additional information on each nominee relating to their polarization of the nominee as well as the Senate at the time of the vote. There is information relating to gender, location, title, and the agency. This will be useful in determining the polarization of the candidates the Senate nominated across the years as the Senate itself became more polarized. It also shows us how there have been fewer and fewer nominations in the field of environmental policy, which is a result of the shrinking EPA.

I work with three other research assistants, one of whom found data relating to the sociological impacts of coal-fired power plants. In a 2002 report, she found that African Americans are disproportionately affected by power plant emissions. They found that the African American community was perceived by Americans to be less influential regarding environmental issues. On the other hand, mainstream organizations are reluctant to share and collaborate with the perspectives of People of Color. In 2002, nearly 3 in every 4 African Americans live in counties that violate federal air pollution standards. Coal-fired power plants are among the largest contributors to mercury pollution. Since nearly a third of the African American population are active anglers, and they also eat more fish than the white population, they are more at risk to catch diseases from the mercury-tainted fish. Nearly 68% of African Americans (2002 estimate) lived within 30 miles of a power plant. 30 miles is the distance within which the worst effects are expected to take place.

For the rest of the summer, I will be working independently on creating a database that will be used to predict future locations of coal-fired power plants.


  1. This is a very interesting project that you have been a part of . I am especially intrigued by the findings regarding the sociological of these coal-fired power plants. These plants are such a large contributor to mercury pollution in those areas, with the African American community being so negatively impacted. Do you think that there has been low participation in efforts led by the community to fight against the pollution or is it due to a genuine lack of influence the community has regarding environmental issues, as you mentioned? Good luck to your independent study!