INSTITUTE INDEX: Why coal ash is an environmental justice issue

A protest held this week outside the North Carolina governor's mansion over Duke Energy's recent coal ash spill into the Dan River made the connection between the environment and racial and economic justice. (Photo by Alex Kotch.)

Number of Americans who live within three miles of a coal-fired power plant, which typically stores toxic coal ash waste in unlined pits that aren't currently subject to federal oversight: 6 million

Their average per capita income: $18,400

Average per capita income for U.S. residents overall: $21,587

Percent of people living within three miles of a coal plant who are people of color: 39

Percentage points by which that exceeds people of color's representation in the overall U.S. population: 3

Number of the nation's 378 coal-fired power plants that received an "F" in a 2012 report because they're responsible for a disproportionate amount of pollution in low-income and minority communities: 75

Average per capita income of the 4 million people who live within three miles of those failing coal plants: $17,500

Percent who are people of color: 53

Number of the nation's power companies that got an "F" in the report, including Duke Energy: 12

Average per-capita income of people living within three miles of Duke Energy's Dan River plant near Eden, N.C., where a Feb. 2 coal ash spill has contaminated the waterway for 80 miles downstream: $15,772

Percent of the state's average income that amount represents: 77.7

Percent of the residents of Danville, Va., a community downstream of the spill that draws its drinking water from the Dan, who are people of color: 53.3

Percent of Virginia's population overall that is non-white: 36

While the population living within three miles of the Dan River plant is not disproportionately minority, the percent of people living within a mile of Duke Energy's Belews Creek plant in Stokes County, N.C. and its Sutton plant in New Hanover County, N.C. who are: 60

Amount that the community near Duke's Sutton plant will have to pay for a new water line because of groundwater contamination from the leaky coal ash pits: $472,000

Risk of cancer for people living within a mile of unlined coal ash pits: 1 in 50

Number of times that exceeds what the Environmental Protection Agency considers an acceptable risk: 2,000

Number of times more likely it is for someone living near a coal ash pit to develop cancer than someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes per day: 9

Rank of African Americans among the U.S. racial groups with the highest cancer incidence and cancer death rates: 1

Rank of African Americans' lower socioeconomic status among the reasons for that disparity: 1

(Click on figure to go to source.)