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Intern Edition from NPR, an intern-run multimedia newsmagazine, recently ran the story Battle to Breathe: One Woman’s War on Coal Pollution. The story details Elizabeth Chimento’s fight to shut down the GenOn coal plant in Alexandria, Va. Chimento believed the plant, which started burning coal in 1949, was causing the gray residue blanketing window sills and cars in her neighborhood. In order to link the plant to the pollutants, Chimento and her neighbor Poul Hertel attended a U.S. Geological Survey conference where they met a group of Penn State researchers, including Gareth Mitchell, research associate at the EMS Energy Institute.
Chimento and Hertel asked Mitchell to do a study that would prove the residue was coming from the plant. He agreed and after several months was able to officially make the link. Mitchell’s research provided key information Chimento needed to move on to the next step, proving the residue was harmful. Now, after ten years of work, the plant is slated for closure in October 2012.