Friday, January 14, 2011

Latest From : CleanTechnica

Latest From : CleanTechnica

FACES of Coal Gives a Bronx Cheer to EPA

Posted: 14 Jan 2011 04:00 AM PST

FACES of Coal reacts to US EPA veto of Spruce coal mineAs 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.

Smiling FACES

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

Australia’s Catastrophic Floods Shut Down its Coal Exports

Posted: 13 Jan 2011 04:07 PM PST

Australia is the biggest exporter of coal in the world. It is also one of the first nations to have been hit really hard by destabilizing climate change.

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.

Susan Kraemer@Twitter

A Touching Coal Mining Story from West Virginia

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:

He states for over 100 years Coal has provided high paying jobs and low electricity bills. Maybe a $256.87 a month electric bill to him is low, but to our hardworking citizens and elderly people it’s not.  To my 78-yr-old Mother-In-Law it's food and medicine for a month.  To the family who doesn’t work in the Coal industry, it's food for the kids or a car payment. Mr. Rockefeller isn't for WV or the Coal miners. He is for Don Blankenship and other Coal Barons who fund his campaign every four years. If he stood up for the citizens of WV, he would stand up and say WV needs more jobs other than Coal mining. Don't get me wrong, I am 100% for the Coal miners themselves. The problem is, representatives such as Nick RahallShelley Capito and Rockefeller won’t allow any other companies in WV. Some of our Coal miners work in the Coal mines because they have no other choice, others because they enjoy that type of work. Most Coal miners have college degrees in many things, yet Coal mining is the only thing we have to offer them.

My husband has a degree in electronics engineering and 1080 hrs. in industrial electronics, but his only choice was to become a Coal miner.  He worked in the mines for two years, the toll it took on his body.. that was heartbreaking. When he would come home from work he looked like death in the face. He worked 12 hrs. a day 6 days a week — the kids and I only saw him on Saturdays and half a day on Sundays. His skin was stained black, he coughed constantly as if he had the flu.

I was 8 months pregnant with our son the day the UBB mine disaster happened, I had laid down to take a nap. When I got up my cell phone had 10 missed calls and 20  text messages on it. The calls and messages were from my two oldest daughters and my sister, asking if my husband was working. I called my 15-yr-old first and asked what was wrong. She was in a total panic and crying wanting to know if her step-dad was ok, that a mine just blew up and 12 (at the time) miners were trapped. The news didn't report which mine or it's location until later. When I informed her he was ok and was getting ready for work, she responded ‘NO, do not let him go back to work mommy, Please!’  I got her to calm down then called my 19-yr-old and got the same response. ‘Mommy, please don't let him go.’ It broke my heart in two knowing he had to go to work to pay bills and take care of our babies. But what hurt the most was the fear and heartbreak that my children were feeling.

Anyway, I turned on CNN and started to watch the heartbreaking events unfold. I knew that come 9:00 pm my miner would be walking out the door to go to work. But somehow this night was different than all the other nights I told him goodbye. I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I had never felt before in my life.  The mining pay was great, it gave us tons of nice things and plenty of money to provide for our family. But at that moment, I didn't care if we had a dime in the bank and had to live in a tent. I was sending the love of my life, my best friend and my children's father out the door not knowing if he would ever be back. He was killing his body and he was risking his life to provide us with worldly things, things that could be replaced. After he left, I sat and watched CNN until daylight waiting on his morning call letting me know he was coming home. Thank God in heaven I received that call.

As the evening  went on I continued to watch the events at UBB unfold. As I watched the miners families standing, praying and waiting on the news of their miner, it broke my heart. I will never forget the look on one young man's face when a reporter ask him how he was feeling (stupid question).  His response was "it feels like I'm getting punched over and over in the stomach."  I knew at that moment, I didn't want my son or daughters to ever experience that feeling…. Two days later, he decided to leave the mines.

It has been 8 months now since he quit, we are all doing fine. We may not have as much money as before, but we do have the most important thing to our family and that's DADDY!

I just wish our elected officials would see that West Virginia's most valuable resource is our Miners themselves and not the Coal. But I'm afraid that they will continue to fight for the Coal Barons’ wallets and the campaign funding, as long as they "Keep Them in the Coal" our politicians will be fine.  Please keep our West Virginia Coal Miners in your thoughts and prayers. Never forget the ones we have lost in Sago, UBB and other places.

So touching.

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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