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Why Is the U.S. Capitol Still Burning Coal?

Why Is the U.S. Capitol Still Burning Coal?
Architect of the Capitol

Welcome back to our weekly look at what's being outlawed in cities across the world (past editions here):

COAL-BURNING POLITICIANS, IN D.C.

A local pol in the District of Columbia is fighting against his city's only coal-fired powerplant – the one heating the U.S. Congress. For years, senators and representatives have kept their tushes toasty with steam from the Capitol Power Plant, a nearby facility that's been gusting that other kind of hot air into the federal campus since 1910. But WAMU reports that Councilmember Tommy Wells, who represents D.C.'s Ward 6, is pushing a bill that would ask the feds to switch to cleaner natural gas. Wells asserts that the continuing use of coal is only for "political purposes."

The Capitol's billowing furnaces have been a political issue for a while, given how nice it would be for Congress to lead by example for once on climate change. In 2000, two senators from coal-industry states blocked a plan to stop burning the chunky nuggets in D.C., with West Virginia's Robert Byrd and Kentucky's Mitch McConnell arguing that gas would be more expensive. The plant operators have started using more gas in recent times, though in 2007 the Energy Department reckoned that the facility still produced about 118,851 tons of carbon dioxide. Whether Wells' bill will knock down that amount is up in the air; it's not like Congress has a strong track record of heeding the wished of its utterly helpless host city.

GOBBING, IN ENGLAND

Say you've spent a good minute hacking up a gorgeous green blob of mucus now rolling around in the back of your throat. Is it worth £80 to spit it into the street?

That's the question spitters must now ask themselves in Waltham Forest, a borough in northeast London. Fed up with streets painted with the glistening sputum of the well-salivaed, the local council has passed a prohibition against gobbing in public (as well as urinating, naturally). Anybody spotted releasing precious bodily fluids into the streets can now be ticketed just like a litterer, as the law redefines such substances as "waste."

Waltham Forest's harsh stance of projectile droolers is reportedly a first for councils throughout the United Kingdom, reports the BBC. It is part of the neighborhood's Wipe It Out campaign, aimed at reducing instances of "environmental crime." And a crime public spitting arguably is during flu season. According to one anti-spitting campaign, a gooey patch of foot-tracked phlegm can spread germs up to an amazing 230 feet.

PUBLIC WEDDINGS, IN AUSTRALIA


\(No idea. Photo by psbikes/Flickr)

On February 20, the highest court in New South Wales will take on a case with far-reaching implications: Should the rich be subject to the nightmare of lower-class weddings?

That is the gist of a lawsuit brought by affluent residents against the Woollahra Council in eastern Sydney, who are fighting against the multitude of marriages happening in a public park near their homes. The suit's participants – including Australia's 13th richest person Kerry Stokes and "kingpin of Sydney property" Laurie Sutton – complain that weddings at McKell Park block up the green space to regular visitors and also create disturbances of the peace, which I guess means intolerable stuff like string-music earworms and the incessant clinking of champagne flutes. A spokesperson for the residents explained to the Sydney Morning Herald, "There are constant and consistent breaches of the rules with excessive numbers [of guests], excessive noise and a severe lack of parking and traffic congestion."

Lovebirds who want to book the park for a public hitching pay the equivalent of $430 U.S. – a bargain however you slice it. But if the NIMBYs win this legal bout, budget-conscious brides and grooms might be driven to courthouse marriages or to beg moneyed landowners to use their walled-in, peacock-infested estates. As the Woollahra mayor told Big Pond News: "If it's found that our park can't hold weddings, the same would apply to every park in NSW."

Top photo from the Architect of the Capitol/Wikipedia.

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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