- FACES of Coal Gives a Bronx Cheer to EPA
- Australia’s Catastrophic Floods Shut Down its Coal Exports
- A Touching Coal Mining Story from West Virginia
Posted: 14 Jan 2011 04:00 AM PST
As reported yesterday at CleanTechnica, the U.S. EPA effectively halted a coal mining operation that would have dynamited hundreds of acres of West Virginia countryside, by prohibiting the mine operator from filling nearby valleys and streams with debris. It wasn’t long before the industry group FACES of Coal responded with a press release complaining about potential job losses, under the header “EPA’s Assault on U.S. Economy Continues.” Well, now that you bring it up, maybe it’s time to sort out just who is assaulting what when it comes to mountaintop coal mining.
FACES stands for Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security and if you check out their website you’ll find that mountaintop removal operations have actually been a nice thing for the Appalachian region. In addition to creating jobs, they have resulted in considerable aesthetic improvement. The site features a supporter who argues that before all these mountains were blown to smithereens, they were kind of yucky (“straight up and down, with craggy rocks), but “now, thanks to surface mining, they are more visually pleasing.”
Mountaintop Coal Mining
And now back to our regularly scheduled reality. As reported by Ken Ward of Coal Tattoo, EPA vetoed a permit that the Army Corps of Engineers had issued for Spruce Mine No. 1, because the proposed operation would have buried more than six miles of “high-quality” streams under 110 million cubic yards of mine waste, eliminating all aquatic life in the streams (no, duh), polluting downstream waters, and degrading the downstream watershed with a consequent impact on birds and other wildlife. Multiply that by hundreds of similar operations, and you’ve got an entire region under assault.
An Assault on the Economy
So, how’d you like to invest in a business or real estate anywhere near one of these operations? For that matter, the presence of any kind of coal mine is a reverse indicator for economic development in the region. Poverty in Appalachia is closely tied to the presence of coal mining in local communities, and to make matters worse the region has steadily lost coal jobs with the advent of mountaintop removal, which is less labor intensive than conventional mining. As for the quality of the remaining coal jobs, check out this story.
The U.S. EPA and Green Jobs
Ironically, some of that Appalachian coal is exported overseas, and doesn’t even go to sustain U.S. industries let alone create new jobs in the U.S. In contrast, EPA has been hard at work creating new green jobs right here through its Re-Powering America’s Lands program, which reclaims polluted sites for new clean energy operations. Then there’s the AgStar program that EPA is working on with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is boosting jobs in the biogas industry.
Image: Clown by joni on flickr.com.
Posted: 13 Jan 2011 04:07 PM PST
A decade of devastating drought has brought the continent waves of farmer suicides, devastating state-wide wildfires, has cut rice crops 98%, and forced governments to choose between growing crops and keeping coal plants supplied with water to produce electricity.
Now an area the size of France and Germany combined is submerged in the kind of catastrophic flooding long warned of by climate scientists as the sort of weather to expect to see more often as a result of adding more heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
Pakistan suffered similarly catastrophic floods in the summer of 2010, which was the hottest year in history, according to NASA (together with 2005). The next warmest years are 1998, 2002, 2003, 2006, (and 2007 and 2009 are tied for third hottest) according to NASA data. Along with rising average global temperatures, droughts, wildfires and floods are the result of increasing the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Ironically, the floods themselves have forced the shut-down of the very coal exports that are primarily responsible for Australia’s contribution to the greenhouse gases that cause climate change that is causing an increase in catastrophic floods.
Australia’s high carbon footprint comes not so much from its 20 million people as from its exports: practically the entire state of Queensland is dug up and shipped to China for the coke needed in steel-making.
But with flooded open-pit coal mines and washed out rail lines throughout Queensland, nearly 14 million tonnes of coking coal is already removed from world markets, according the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Pumping water out from the state’s coal pits will be a massive project, according to mining minister Martin Ferguson. Mining companies Anglo American and Rio Tinto have been forced to declare force majeure as coal exports have been reduced to a trickle.
Due to this catastrophe, coking coal prices could rise from a baseline of around $100 (before smaller-scale Queensland floods in 2008) to above $300 a ton.
Posted: 13 Jan 2011 10:00 AM PST
We focus on clean tech here on Cleantechnica (makes sense to, eh?), but sometimes we have to pause to take a look at the alternative and remember why clean tech is so important. There are a lot of public health, national security, environmental, and economic issues we can and do discuss in the abstract, but we don’t often include personal testimonies of the horrors of dirty energy on here.
A newfound internet friend of mine has such a story and I found it so interesting, powerful, and moving, I thought it’d be worth a full share. The writer is living in West Virginia (as will be clear) and her and her husband have to write under false names for their own safety there (maybe more on that another day)…. The article I’m pulling the following quote from starts off with the writer, WV Outpost, talking about a petition she signed trying to bring an end to mountaintop removal in West Virginia and her Senator’s response (pasted in full in the article). Following this, WV Outpost counters a number of assumptions and claims made in Sen. Rockefeller’s letter and then delves into her and her family’s personal experiences with coal mining. Here’s that part:
And I would just wrap up by giving a little more emphasis to a point she touched on. Coal is the economic powerhouse of WV because that is all the politicians there support. WV has numerous other resources that it could utilize more cleanly that would not harm people like coal does. But, of course, the coal industry is already strong there, and the politicians are puppets to the industry.
More such stories or input on this matter? Share them below. Or visit WV Outpost and share them there.
Photo Credit: Rainforest Action Network
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