A mountain seems invincible; but it’s certainly not when it harbors coal.
Approximately 1.2 million acres, including 500 mountains, have been flattened by mountaintop removal coal mining in the USA’s central Appalachian region according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
More than 1,200 miles of streams and rivers have also been destroyed or otherwise directly polluted by coal mining waste in central Appalachia in just a 10-year span.
These are staggering figures; hard to comprehend.
Much of the press about coal fired power generation and the environment these days is in relation to carbon emissions.
While so called “clean coal” is meant to save the day on that front (which is questionable); it will do nothing to prevent the destruction of unique natural habitats such as those of the Appalachian region. In fact, clean coal processes require more energy which means more coal will be needed to be mined to produce the same energy output. Add line loss issues associated with transmitting electricity and coal is beyond filthy; whatever greenwash label is applied.
So how do mining companies get away with wreaking such destruction on such a grand scale?
According to the NRDC, the mining industry exploits a federal statutory provision that excuses them from restoring the land to its “approximate original contour” if there is a plan to develop the land for “equal or better economic use” such as “industrial, commercial, residential or public use.”
However, analysis by the NRDC published in its report titled “Reclamation FAIL” confirms that nearly 90 percent of mountaintop removal sites have not been converted to economic uses. Only about four percent of mountains in Kentucky and West Virginia, where 80 percent of the mining is occurring, had any post-mining economic activity.
I guess we can all tsk, tsk about this, but the sad truth is that as consumers, we fuel this sort of destruction. We don’t see it happening in front of our eyes, so it’s easy to overlook or forget what our fossil fuel dependence costs.
For an action you can take right now to help stop this; the NRDC is asking for U.S, citizens to send a message to Congress to tell senators to pass the Appalachia Restoration Act.
Some little things we can all do to help slow the onslaught of environmental destruction from coal mining is to reduce electricity consumption in our homes and at our place of business and to reduce general consumption of goods and services we don’t need that are produced using energy supplied by coal.
We need call on government to give increasing support to renewable energy alternatives; so coal fired power generation can be more rapidly phased out. We can also make the switch to solar power in our own homes, or buy “green power” from our electricity utility.
Read more of NRDC’s Reclamation-FAIL
Fossil Fuel Fast Facts