Coal: Mountaintop Removal in Appalachia

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Appalachia fall foliage

Turning this… [Radio Rover / Flickr]

MTR in West Virginia

…to this [Vivian Stockman / OHVEC / Flyover courtesy SouthWings]


Our latest global warming hour showed that burning coal for cheap electricity threatens the world’s climate. But coal wreaks havoc long before it gets to the power plant.

Coal can be dug underground or in surface strip mines — and one form of strip-mining called mountaintop removal (MTR) is the worst of the worst. MTR predominates in central Appalachia — coal-rich and income-poor — on ancient mountains that support some of the most diverse temperate ecosystems in the world. To remove an Appalachian mountaintop to find a coal seam, you first clearcut its forest. Then you blast it with the same explosives Timothy McVeigh used in Oklahoma. Next, you fill in the nearest valley with the useless rock. When you reach the coal, you load up your 18-wheelers. And when you’re done mining, basically all you have to do is sprinkle some non-native seeds on the new moonscape and walk away. The scale of the destruction is something you have to see to register. Something that may approach the size of Delaware.

House after flood

After a valley-fill flood on Kayford Mtn, WV [Vivian Stockman / OHVEC]

The effects of MTR? Massive habitat (and therefore species) loss. Hundreds of miles of streams buried or polluted by toxins. Wells full of carcinogens or completely dried up. House foundations cracked by the force of explosions. Thick layers of coal dust on houses and yards. Floods and mudslides. Disease and premature deaths. Longstanding rural communities and culture destroyed. Local roads made lethal by speeding, overloaded coal trucks. A three-year-old boy killed in his bed by a half-ton boulder.

If you live in central Appalachia, where coal has ruled the local economy and politics forever, it’s not easy to protest without threatening the jobs of family and friends. (Nor is it clear that the Bush Administration has your interests at heart anyway.) So how can you think about saving your family from MTR? Saving your community? Saving your environmental heritage, which in Appalachia includes mountain culture, important tourist destinations, and pure air and water? The answer surely involves incorporating the real costs of coal into its final price, but is it possible to pressure politicians so closely tied to King Coal? And what about us, the consumers, who suck up electricity as carelessly as we breathe air, most often without any idea of the life it destroyed on the way to the outlet — what’s our responsibility here?


  • http://www.ilovemountains.org ilovemountains.org

    Thanks so much for this post. You can learn more about MTR, view the National Memorial for the Mountains in 2D and 3D, and watch videos about MTR at http://www.ilovemountains.org/

    Thanks for Caring!

  • http://www.liftport.com Brian Dunbar

    what’s our responsibility here?

    Our responsibility seems clear – stop using coal. Our civilization is addicted to high energy – and I don’t think that on the whole this is a bad thing* – but we’re not addicted to how we get our energy fix. Nuclear, solar, wind, my favorite, solar power satellites … it’s all part of a sustainable future.

    *nor is there any turning back without consequences that most posters here would find unacceptable.

  • rc21

    Is their any chance of also airing someone with a counter view?

  • http://www.ohvec.org OHVEC

    The coal industry has been flooding the airwaves with “counterviews” –learnaboutcoal.org is a place to go if you want to read their PR. Sure hope you don’t buy into though. There is no such thing as “clean” coal, and we all pay for the huge externalized costs of this industry. Yesterday, the DOE announced $1 billion in tax credits for “clean” coal plants.

    http://today.reuters.com/news/articleinvesting.aspx?view=CN&storyID=2006-11-30T193731Z_01_N30202284_RTRIDST_0_COAL-US-GASIFICATION-UPDATE-1.XML&rpc=66&type=qcna

    Cleaning up emissions is a laudable idea, but what about cleaning up emissions from existing plants? What about the global warming gases?

    What about the front-end of mining?:

    mountaintop removal

    http://www.wvgazette.com/section/Series/Mining+the+Mountains

    longwall mining

    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06327/740753-85.stm

    black lung

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/27/AR2006112701510.html

    miner safety (44 miners dead in the US so far this year)

    http://www.wvgazette.com/section/Series/Beyond+Sago.

    acid mine drainage

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_mine_drainage

    http://wvwri.nrcce.wvu.edu/programs/mbmpp/index.cfm

    There never has been and never will be “clean” coal. Coal is dirty when you mine it, dirty when you prep it for market

    http://www.sludgesafety.org/,

    dirty when you haul it to the power plants,

    http://www.ohvec.org/issues/overweight_coal_trucks/index.html,

    dirty when you burn it,

    http://bst.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/21/6/482

    dirty when you “dispose” of the ash (disposal is not federally regulated and coal ash can leach into groundwater),

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_ash

    even dirtier when you try to burn old coal waste,

    http://www.energyjustice.net/coal/wastecoal/

    and it sure dirties up politics!

    http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.asp?Ind=E1210

    Why are our tax dollars subsidizing this fossilized industry when global warming / climate change dictates that we should be directing every effort into powering down, conservation, energy efficiency, truly cleaner renewables?

    If you want to read the words of people whose lives are affected by mountaintop removal, see:

    http://www.ohvec.org/issues/mountaintop_removal/misc/ovec_mtrbooklet.pdf

    http://www.ohvec.org/issues/mountaintop_removal/articles/2003_12_07_EIS_speakanon.pdf

    http://www.ohvec.org/issues/mountaintop_removal/articles/EIS_social_cultural.pdf

    See photos of mountaintop removal at:

    http://www.ohvec.org/galleries/mountaintop_removal/index.html.

  • Teri B

    How arrogant are we as a people who could blow up the most ancient mountains on earth reducing them to rubble and call that creating clean or cheap energy?

    Surface mining, deep mining and of course the most inhumane Mountain top removal has to be factored into the conversations about GLOBAL WARMING.

    The entire process of creating energy from coal is destructive. From all the methane gases released from mining to all the heavy diesel burning equipment used to dig it and haul it away then the process of dealing with the fly ash. The entire process from the cradle to the grave has to be in the mix. We also have to take into consideration the loss of some of the most diverse hardwood forest in the world. How would losing hundreds of thousands of acres of vegetation and forest land add to the conversation of carbon? We fight for the rain forest how about the Appalachian Forest?

    We can not allow our political leaders and those in power to continue to take us down the path of fossil fuels…..

  • Tom Molinaro

    When I moved from New York City to Pennsylvania about five years ago I was at first delighted that my home energy bill was nearly cut in half. It wasn’t long before I realized that everything has a price. The “cheap” energy we produce in PA by burning coal exacts a heavy price on our environment, particularly our air quality. Open Source has done an excellent job in making these connections, but I’m afraid they’re rarely mentioned on the television network news. So thanks for keeping it real.

  • Bobo

    People who were called ‘eco-terrorists’ a few years ago have now grown up. Instead of burning down ski-resorts, these same groups are now thinking smart. MTR defense is one of the main frontiers of the new activists. They’ve learned to work with the locals, and many of them are locals. They are no longer out-of-towners trying to tell impoverished locals what to do. Throughout Appalachia, these groups have had wide-ranging success in organizing local towns against the coal companies. When the coal companies go ahead anyway, the gloves come off. I hope you are able to get one of these heroes on the air for this segment. They’re doing what all of us should be.

  • rd13w5

    Why is it that we (humans) can just destory the only home we have. How can we not know that the consequences down the road will be greater than making the sacrifice today. Making the investment today in new energy sources will pay off down the road tomrrow.

  • mdhatter

    Edward Abbey said: “The most common form of terrorism in the U.S.A. is that carried on by bulldozers and chain saws.”

    I was reading the intro and thinking about the local people. The destruction of the land. Why not just take their firstborn? Then I read about the tragedy of the boy lost to the boulder.

    For contrast, look at this photo. from NASA of Hurrricane Erin. Look carefully at the NYC area. That was taken on 9/11 of the whole east coast.

    Hurricane Erin didn’t do much to the US, but which is global terrorism? The frequency and intensity of those storms, or that tiny tragic plume of smoke you can see emanating from manhattan. Both, obviously.

    Retreating eurasian armies did less damage to the lands of their enemies. What kind of heritage is this destructuon, and the resulting warming, to leave for the next generation?

  • http://olywa.blogspot.com emmettoconnell

    One of my favorite writers, Jedediah Purdy, wrote about the apparent disconnect between mountain top removal and the public policy of environmental protect in “For Common Things.” He grew up in West Virginia.

  • lbjay

    Death of a Mountain, by Eric Reece

    http://www.wesjones.com/death.htm

    This article appeared in the April, 05 issue of Harper’s Mag. The link includes all of the photos from the article, including an excellent cross-section diagram of the leveling process.

  • Ben

    MTR is frightening, not in the least for the long term effects. Mechanized mining and resource irresponsibility in general are as suspect as the coal and energy sides. One of the largest and most complicated Superfund sites is Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana. The old pit mine, now full of water with such a high acid content it kills migratory waterfowl, is also the town’s biggest tourist attraction. The effect of our fairly recent ability to make large scale changes to the earth are just beginning to surface and the consequences are not really looking good. It begs the question: who is left holding the bill after the party lets out and the guests have all gone?

  • Ben

    (… the effects with an s that is…)

  • plnelson

    Scientific American had a whole issue devoted to the energy topic in the last year or so and basically, if you do the math, none of the alternative energy technologies (wind, tidal, solar, ect) come close to making much a dent in the global problem. Too many people in developing nations are getting prosperous enough to afford cars and air conditioners and TV’s and diswashers. It’s those nasty capitalists again, raising living standards. Nuclear might have a shot except the government keeps dragging its feet on waste disposal and liability issues. So basically nothing will happen and it will get worse and worse.

    I love these little whine-and-geez parties we have here. Darfur? That’s a tragedy, someone should do something. Ditto with Coltan, but we gotta have our cellphones and you’ll get my iPod when you pry it out of my cold dead fingers. What a mess Iraq is, huh? We’re all going broke paying for healthcare, maybe someone will think of something. Ditto with social security, good thing some of us have big 401(k)’s – sure don’t know what the poor people will do. Global warming is a toughie, but, hey, if a few dead polar bears wash up in my backyard that’s a small price to pay for having oceanfront property in Andover, MA.

    I don’t know what the point of these discussions is – we just talk about this or that social, economic, or environmental disaster and how someone should DOooo something about it if only anyone could agree on what do do, and we’re all intelligent people here on ROS and we can’t agree on what to do. I’m wasting too much time in these pointless debates.

  • Katherine

    plnelson: If your point is that conversation has no point, then Open Source — a self-described talk show — may not be the place for you, though we’d be sad to see you go. To the extent that talk is easy and action is hard, you’re right. But then action without understanding is a dangerous thing — and what we aim for every day is some kind of handle on some aspect of this complicated world.

  • Ben

    PL- one thing among many that can be done – we can continue to pressure lawmakers to stop reenacting the sinking island of Hy-Brasil scene from Erik the Viking.

  • Bobo

    While I agree that talk without action is useless, and I do encourage people to ‘Dooo something’ as much as possible, the majority of people don’t know what they should do something about. I listen to this show and peruse these boards because I learn about issues I hadn’t known of before. I think that many people don’t know much about MTR, and I look forward to this particular show in hopes that I learn more myself. If whining leads to education and a more informed populace, I say: BRING ON THE WHINE!

  • http://velociraptor.info/notes amanda

    Kentuckians for the Commonewealth (http://www.kftc.org/) also made a great short film about the impact of mountaintop removal, and I know that the Sage Council (http://www.sagecouncil.org/) in Albuquerque has also done a lot of organizing around similar mining issues in the Southwest. Either could definitely help identify knowledgeable guests for the segment.

  • Psychodopolous

    My congressman, George Miller, of Contra Costa County, California, has been working to improve conditions of the Appalachian coal miners. The deaths in the second of the mine disasters last year were directly caused by the relaxation of safety standards by the Bush administration. So, yet more deaths on the hands of the neocons.

    Hats off to George Miller — way out here in the West, this is not an issue that’s stage front for his constituents.

  • http://www.headonradionetwork.com BobKincaid

    We lost two more miners here in West Virginia Saturday. The blood comes, the blood goes, but the lights stay on forever, right?

    Always remember the motto of the “Friends of Coal:” “Coal: It Keeps the Lights On.” I would add, “Especially in Funeral Parlors.”

    At the end of the day, if Saddam had done to Iraq what Don Blankenship and Massey Energy does to West Virginia, what happened to him might’ve been justified.

  • Hillary Anne

    It is hard to believe that this is actually happening in the United States. We are famous for condemning other nations for the poor treatment of, or all out assaults on, their own citizens and yet here in the U.S. not only are we allowing this to happen but government agencies, on a state and federal level, are actually facilitating a deal where thick profits are reaped by comfortable coal executives and citizens living icoal rich mountain areas are left with extreme poverty in a wasted land.

    It is impossible for me to believe that if most Americans were aware of Mountaintop Removal, and the related impacts of an irresponsible industry beyond government reproach, that we as a collective citizen population would allow this destructive, and sometimes irreversible, cycle to continue.

    I truly believe that coal mining as it is happening in Appalachia today will go down in history as an embarrassment to our nation, a black mark as dark and dirty as the history of slavery in this nation or the genocide of the first nations who related to this land as their home long before the arrival of the first ships from Europe.

  • Psychodopolous

    Although I would not quite equate the very sad history of coal slavery with African slavery (which was a purer form, and racist), it is awful nonetheless. It’s seemed to me that the extractive industries have been contemptuous of the populace at large and their “slaves” in particular in plunder of our resources and their rape of the land. Here in California, the equivalent is the timber industry, and the head evil bastard of Pacific Lumber is a Texan named Charles Hurwitz. I don’t think that trees crush loggers in the same way as the life is crushed out of coal miners.

    Chris, Mary, Brendon: please contact Bob Kincaid at Headonradio.com, to get some great on-the-ground guests for this show that’s so central to our America.

  • mulp

    I grew up reading Milton Friedman, so while I never saw myself having a career as an economist, (what do they do, write columns for Newsweek for a living? How could I compete with Friedman and Galbraith?) I did develop a passion for thinking analytically about social issues and applying economic theory.

    What I have been struggling with is how the fossil fuels fit into classic economic theory, and having returned to college after almost four decades, I was hoping that the gened courses in micro and macro would explain it. Nope! So, I have been searching for a number of years for the economists explanation and the best I can come up with is Hotelling’s Rule http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotelling's_rule and an expansion on it by Solow in response to Hotelling’s death.

    What I finally understood a few days ago is that the economist describes the future in terms of ever increasing prices to succeeding generations. The current generation seeks to deplete the cheapest of the finite resources, and as they reach exhaustion, the price rises to equal the cost of the next cheapest to deplete finite resource.

    Of course, economic theory doesn’t make dollar cost the only consideration, with human preferences being something that is quantifiable. The question I ask is, what is the dollar value future generations would place on having mountains to climb – I’m a midwest transplant to New England and I found it initally odd that my coworkers would think it fun to get up hours earlier than we normally did to go climb a mountain, which really was hard work compared to walking on flat land – clearly they found great value in the NH mountains relative to the flatter MA trails.

    Economists tell us that we should trade with distant lands because removing the barriers of space (place) to trade benefits everyone.

    Ok, I want the technology that the future will be forced to develop to compensate for the depletion of our finite resources and to deal with the scars on the land we leave behind, and in exchange I offer them some of out cheap energy.

    Why aren’t the economists explaining to us how to trade with future generations?

    Why aren’t the economists explaining how to use the market to create greater equity across generations? Why are the economist happy to conclude that future generations will pay increasing costs for energy and the current generation will always have the luxury of consuming the cheap energy and condemning the future generations to the expensive energy.

    Of course, the mountain top removal programs basically give us the opportunity to have both the cheap energy that the future will not have, PLUS WE HAVE THE BEAUTY AND JOY OF THE MOUNTAINS AND THEY WON’T.

    When the economists bring the issue of ever increasing real costs and prices to future generations to the discussion, then I will be satisfied. I would be happy to have people say: “I’m alive today and I will take the easy route, and my unborn grandchildren be damned.”

    I have no children nor will I ever have unborn or born children, and I think that what we are doing is morally wrong because we are placing burdens on future generations without giving them any say in it.

  • Psychodopolous

    Mulp, unfortunately you linked to a definition that doesn’t exist!! Why not write one or explain it to us here.

    You made some good points. What came to my mind is that we have many industrial processes that depend upon great amounts of heat, and that heat is mostly obtained from fossil fuels. The heat, of course, fuels global warming. We benefit from plastics, glass, metals, and chemicals. How can we re-form our civilization without creating such temperatures. Or, can we retain and recycle industrial heat?

    I am observing some very crafty planning when I look at China — solid positioning for the future. Right now, it’s got the guise of capitalism and especially rampant manufacturing. In fact, China is now our own manufacturing base. All that I know of that’s made here are the military-industrial products, so this business looms huge in comparison to whatever manufacturing is left. China is benefitting, and burning every BTU thay can find. When they have burned enough, and have enough of our cash, they’ll probably turn back to creating a better world: In China.

    But there’s a lot of work for us to do to get off the fossil standard, in our homes, in our travel, and in whatever factories we’ve got left. I don’t hear the Republicans clamoring to take up the challenge, do you?

  • herbert browne

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotelling%27s_Rule

    Thanks, mulp… these are things that trouble me about “modern” economics, too (maybe it’s because we’re about the same age- who knows?), ie a future with more people and fewer non-renewable resources will just have to make more $$ (somehow)- and suck it up. My first exposure to the parameters you mention,

    ..”the current generation seeks to deplete the cheapest of the finite resources, and as they reach exhaustion, the price rises to equal the cost of the next cheapest to deplete finite resource..”-

    was a look at fish landing records for West Coast ports (this was just at the point where the “salad shrimp” fishery off the Central Oregon coast was “discovered”- and the next season brought the first Gulf shrimpers into the local ports- mid ’70s). The cycle was exactly as you described, ie the most desirable species was fished to depletion, at which point another began to be caught in larger & larger #s until it, too, crashed- and was followed by a different species, etc. Another example has been old-growth timber- which actually was “mined out”- because it isn’t renewable, to the minds of those who manage forests (&/or timber), since no one wants to wait 2 or 3 hundred years for quality, when, by changing parameters and “technological improvements” (eg oriented strandboard- wood fiber in glue) one can produce viable money-making substitutes for the real thing- an economic marvel, when “the real thing” is no longer available.

    Why don’t we bite the bullet, and equate our high-energy-consumption lifestyle (as a nation- don’t want to encourage brickbats, now) with a nuke future- period? What’s going on in Appalachia is unconscionable- it makes whining about clearcuts (which really suck) seem like a cry-baby’s outburst…

    So, what to do? Promote energy efficiency, localized power sources, recycling (2650º will get you aluminum from bauxite- plus slag- and 1250º gets you a puddle of aluminum cans, ready to pour), education about the issues, and steady pursuit of our people in Congress, for starters…

    A couple more things- are there really “economies of scale”?.. or is that a euphemism for “we got something really valuable (eg petrochemicals) for next to nothing- so let’s use it to crank out &/or move all kinds of stuff”? “Economies of Scale” always brings another term to my mind- “Free Lunch.” (Maybe we need the economists- and another show- to work this out.)

    The other thing is, What’s the point, when we have a population that only continues to increase, and a shrinking (in many cases) resource base, to strive to mechanize- to make bigger and bigger tractors, 20-storey earthmovers, bigger & bigger ships, welding automatons, etc? Is it our plan that eventually the working class will become the “elites”… and the rest of us amuse, divert, &/or “talk amongst ourselves” for a living? For my own part, it’s often the repetitive physical labor regimes in which my mind achieves the clarity to pursue the analysis & extrapolations & development of ideas that I cherish… & I’d hate to be reduced to butting my head against a wall, in order to make it work better. ^..^

  • herbert browne

    With our permission

    ( an addition to heartbreak…)

    More power to you!

    http://wvgazette.com/section/News/Other+News/200701302

    ^..^

  • andy.peace

    When are you going to release this so that those of us who live & work in West Virginia & the rest of Appalachia will be able to use this in our efforts to stop this mountain removal activity, to save the homes, water supplies, & the way of life of our people.

  • heaviest cat

    I’m founding father and pastor of the First Hot Coal Church of Burlington Mass.

    WE believe that penance requires more than a simpering prayer! You must prove ,you’re sorry for your sins .You’ve got to walk over the hot coals.

  • hawriverfilms

    For an alternative to learnaboutcoal.org visit

    http://www.hawriverfilms.com

  • Matthew C

    If you poke around with Google Maps, then you can actually see the MTR from satellite pictures. The scale of destruction is impressive.

  • http://www.citytowninfo.com avecfrites

    Matthew:

    The official Google blog just came out with a post on the topic:

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/03/birds-eye-view-of-mountaintop.html

  • enhabit

    i grew up in western pennsylvania..slag heaps..strip mining..lots of it. you get somewhat used to it but how can one get totally accostomed to such scarring of a very underestimated part of the country.

    i was surprized to discover a real wasteland in EASTERN pennsylvania that popped my eyes out. normally..on our return to new england from charlottesville virginia we’ll follow us 81 to 78. traffic diverted us at that split one trip. if one stays on 81 one will find what looks like a warzone. miles and miles of wasteland. the reason is eventually clear..a distant coal burning power plant..and monster surface stripper..a real shock to see such scale to the stripping. annie dillard wrote in “an american childhood” (highly recomended) that the appalachian seam goes all the way to europe.

  • herbert browne

    Th Daily Independent online (from Kentucky) had an article March 23rd about a Fed court ruling that 4 projects weren’t properly permitted.

    Mar 23, 9:38 PM EDT

    Judge: Corps Coal Permits Illegal

    By PAM RAMSEY

    Associated Press Writer

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A federal judge ruled Friday that the Army Corps of Engineers illegally issued permits for four mountaintop removal mines without adequately determining whether the environment would be harmed.

    U.S. District Judge Chuck Chambers rescinded the permits, which allow four mines operated by Massey Energy Co. to fill nearby valleys with dirt, rocks and other material removed to expose coal seams…

    The corps had maintained that more extensive reviews weren’t necessary for the permits.

    Chambers remanded the permits to the corps for further consideration…

    Environmentalists call the technique destructive and point to a 2005 study that said mountaintop removal and valley fills had buried 1,200 miles of headwater streams in Appalachia…

    Maybe this will, at least, slow down the industrial terraforming (in the name of “cheaper extraction” & bigger profits”)- for awhile… ^..^

  • Psychodopolous

    People who have put up web sites for Chris Lydon seem to have a talent for confusing labels: programs are “re-fed,” in a former incarnation, people were said to have communicated with one another on/in the “verandah.” And now, this topic, so important to the people who it affects, have been relegated to “graveyard.” I assume that this means that this topic has been sunk.

    But meanwhile, Bob Kincaid (whose comment appears above) has a dilemma on his hands. You see, one or two mountains, almost in his own back yard, are going to be exploded; his community will never be the same again — hundreds of years of rich personal, family, and their small commons of history: BOOM forever! New pollution will fill the streams, an ugly lunar landscape will replace life-giving trees; the birds will be scattered. All for a few hours worth of electricity.

    And the story of mountaintop removal returns, once again, to the obscurity — the deep sleep — where it has resided while the land/society rapists explode a community’s legacy, only to move on, destroy another, and line their pockets again. What evils lurk in the dark shadows of killed stories.

    Listen to Bob Kincaid’s show on The Head On Radio Network. It’s only on the Web. Go here for live streaming as well as downloads http://www.whiterosesociety.org/Kincaid.html. It’s real alternative radio from the hills and hollers of coal country. It’s good, too. Real good. I promise.

  • hurley

    Maybe this is what you need to rescue Mountain Top Removal from the Graveyard:

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/29/opinion/e

  • Katherine

    Hi hurley. The link didn’t work — would you mind trying again?

  • hurley

    Hi Katherine, Just saw your message. Here’s the full text:

    Mountaintop rescue

    Published: March 29, 2007

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    Mountaintop mining is a cheap and ruthlessly efficient way to mine coal: soil and rock are scraped away by enormous machines to expose the buried coal seam, then dumped down the mountainside into the valleys and streams below.

    Mountaintop mining has also caused appalling environmental damage in America in violation of the Clean Water Act. According to a federal study, mountaintop removal has buried or choked 1,200 miles of Appalachian streams and damaged hundreds of square miles of forests.

    No recent administration, Democrat or Republican, has made a serious effort to end the dumping, largely in deference to the financial influence of the coal industry and the influence of Senator Robert Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia. But the Bush administration has gone out of its way to shield the practice.

    Now a federal judge has inspired hopes that this destruction can be halted. In a case argued by Earthjustice and the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Judge Robert Chambers of Federal District Court halted four mountaintop removal projects on the grounds that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had failed to demonstrate that the damage would not be irreversible.

    Local residents who have watched the destruction of their landscape hope the ruling will lead to tighter regulation of other mountaintop mining proposals. The greater hope is that the government can be persuaded to stop the practice altogether.

  • Matthew C

    Interesting that people want to stop MTR. Those of you writing your protests here realize that we need the coal, right? Sure, we could invest in Wind, Solar, Nuclear, or Oceanic power solutions of tomorrow, but right now we need the coal. That coal has got to get out of the mountain one way or another, and the mountain and surrounding lands will be forfeit, regardless of removal method. You want to save the mountains? Get your state using an alternative energy for electrical generation. I am disgusted by this as anyone would be, but, while our country remains dependent on electricity, we need this coal.

  • http://velociraptor.info/notes amanda

    This Month’s Ecologist has more mountain top removal coverage:

    http://www.theecologist.org/newsletter_view.asp

    Everyone knows that coal mining is an ugly business, but seeing its full effects is not something many people get to do.

    Now, in an extraordinary new series of independent documentary shorts, web-based VBS TV investigate the staggering environmental and human health cost of coal mining in West Virginia, USA. Ever seen an entire mountaintop removed so that contractors can get at coal underneath? You can here…

    They link to a handful of videos …

    http://www.theecologist.org/newsletter_view.asp

    and Matthew C … I don’t doubt that we think we need this coal, but is “at what cost?” not a fair question to ask? The coal companies hardly do a great job of being clear about the costs of mountain top removal. They just deny that it happens, deny that it is destructive. We need to use less energy, all of us, and we need to get the energy we do use from less damaging sources, but we also need to know that coal mining is destroying Appalachia.

  • enhabit

    i have to wonder how many of the “shocked” also lined up to shoot down cape wind..all those ever so concerned suv drivers out there on nantucket…no no can’t spoil it now..too late, already spoiled

  • Matthew C

    amanda: Thanks for responding. Do not misunderstand me: I regret this show has been shelved in the Graveyard, because I believe looking at the impact of MTR is important. But tomorrow, next week, and the rest of the year, the USA will require a tremendous amount of coal that will come from MTR, so don’t issue an immediate stop of the MTR activities. Realize that MTR keeps our electric lights running. Should you want to do something right now, then you can join me in attempts to be energy efficient. That said, I am also a realist and I know the country is not going to stop using our very cheap electricity any time soon. Demonizing MTR is placing the blame on the coal companies (who are admittedly no angels), when they are providing only what we demand: plentiful and cheap electricity. Coal is the resource that allows it to happen today – and unless Wind, Solar, Nuclear (waste), or Oceanic power solutions mature much further, then coal will be the resource that allows it to happen next year, too.

  • Matthew C
  • Psychodopolous

    Here’s the deal, Matthew:

    OK; we’re going to need to burn coal for a while longer, certainly while we transition to the wonderful green world of the future, whatever that’s made of. And alternative energy, clean and green, will come with or without Bush and his cronies.

    But, for god’s sake, there’s no reason why blowing up mountains must be the way to get it out!

    No way is exploding mountains and The American Apalachian Outback the only way to pull out that coal: ever hear of traditional mining?

    This is just the most profitable way for Massey Energy and other sleazoids can create maxi-profit for their Wall Street investors. Strip mining wasn’t rapacious enough for these guys. And they own West Virginia’s politicians. It’s a cabal like Cheney’s secret energy meeting participants. And like Cheney, it festers in the dark.

    There’s “cowboy coal” from Montana and other parts of the West, too — easy-access open pit mining. But considering that there are over 80 types of coal, with different kinds of pollution from burning each of them, there are some kinds of coal that you’d rather not have burned in your nearby power plant just on the other side of town. So, perhaps paying real live human miners to go deep into the earth, although dangerous, will still be the kindest way, even though it won’t be as profitable for anti-union Massey.

    Mountain-Top Removal is a sanitized spin term: let’s call it what it is: exploding mountiains and wrecking communities. It does not keep our lights on at all: there are other ways to mine the coal.

  • herbert browne

    More on Massey… and collusion with Fed “overseer” agencies. Psychodopolous, I think you got it right… if I were to take MatthewC’s argument, and substitute “marijuana” for “coal”, does it still fly? If not, why not?

    http://wvgazette.com/section/News/2007052610

    When will we rise from the Dead? ^..^

  • Psychodopolous

    Let me offer this compromise:

    Since the Powder River coal in Montana is plentiful and cheap, let’s look at it. We can’t jump off coal overnight. The inhuman mountaintop exploding, village destroying West Virginia coal is the cleanest for electricity generation, but the Montana coal isn’t that much dirtier and it’s six times cheaper. Because getting out the Montana coal, for the time being, is cheap and safe, let’s use it even though it’s a bit dirtier. I’m making this suggestion becaise we’re going to need an immediate transition fuel, not long-term. It’ll almost regulate itself because even though it’s dirt cheap now, it’ll get more expensive as the “low-hanging fruit” is used up and the coal companies have to begin digging sideways to get it. Right now, the mining is easy in huge open-pit mines, in a low-population region. That’s why it’s safe. It’s also not destroying villages and towns and poisoning children, as is resulting in West Virginia from the raping of the land.

    Where I live, in California, most of our electricity comes from burning natural gas, and most of this is from Canada. This isn’t good. It’s expensive and the price of cooking and heating our homes will rise as a result. A little of our power comes from windmills, a little from a geyser. A little comes from the Four Corners area via a wide-flung grid. This is from near-mine coal. Gas is quite clean, but we still pay via global warming and combustion products. Obviously, there’s not enough gas to run the whole country; if we try this, it’ll vanish in a flash.

    Right now, I don’t see any solution in our diving into electric cars. Not yet: guess where the fuel to power them will come from.

    In the meantime, we should work like hell to do two things:

    1. Reduce electricity consumption

    2. Develop alternative energy technology and implementation as if it were a war to be won, an enemy to be overcome.

    We should be talking about this issue now (hint, Chris).

    We can do this, and it will be exciting and fulfilling as all hell.

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  • joel

    Hate to see the interest in this subject die. Wish I had a computer so I could keep up with the blogs better. No computer nor electricity presently.

    Cheers.