In the Heart of Coal Country, Utahns Worry About a Toxic Ash

"Though much maligned for its invasion into the air Utahns breathe, carbon is an element that is everywhere, throughout the earth and in all living creatures. In the human body, it’s the second most abundant element, right after oxygen. And in the heart of Utah’s Carbon County, carbon—the primary stuff of coal—is the lifeblood of the residents and the hardscrabble communities formed to mine the black gold that has powered the world for generations.

Utahns en route to Moab from the north for some fun in the sun can’t miss the telltale signs of coal country: the coal-filled train cars snaking up Price Canyon; the billboard outside Helper advertising the “World’s Tallest Coal Miner” statue; and the billboard outside Price with a picture of a stoic, soot-stained miner holding a chunk of the black stuff under the declaration COAL=JOBS.

Most passersby won’t get much of a glimpse of the frontline of these mining communities as they continue on Highway 6. But if you take a detour 20 miles east of Price, you’ll find the side-by-side communities of East Carbon and Sunnyside. Like everywhere else in the county, coal is king in these two towns. But for some, it comes at too high a cost. "

Eric S. Peterson reports for the Salt Lake City Weekly May 21, 2014.

Thursday, May 22, 2014