Archive for February, 2008

Mountaintop Removal Needs to End

February 1, 2008

Sierra Club is running a letter-writing campaign to Massey Energy to suspend their mountaintop removal practices. The company was just fined as the result of a long string of violations of the Clean Water Act.

Coal power is America’s #1 source of carbon dioxide and mercury pollution, which is increasing at 5%/year. The particulant matter created by the burning of coal contributes to serious air quality degradation.

And the worst part is the ruthless and systematic destruction of huge parts of Appalachia, where coal-containing land is literally blasted off the mountains. Dangerous slurry fills the V-of neighboring valleys, utterly destroying any life there under hundreds of feet of rubble. The dust from the constant explosions contaminates surrounding towns and schools.

Pictures of the results of mountaintop removal are outrageous, see DailyKos’s here and some more at flickr. See Google Earth’s National Monument to the Mountains, too.

Here is one article from alternet. Some groups have taken action, like Rising Tide and Earth First in this blog entry. My posts on coal can be found here; references to coal are buried in those entries.

I personalized my letter at the Sierra Club’s Take Action web site. If that link doesn’t work, try, search term <>.

The letter was addressed to Don Blankenship, Chairman, CEO & President of Massey Energy. Feel free to use it, change the titles to any company that has chosen to employ this despicable practice. And don’t forget to try to reduce your use of coal-based energy.

The upside to environmentally friendly coal mining will make your business model more sustainable. How much longer will Americans stand on the sidelines as Massey decimates mountain after mountain? I’d suggest that Massey Energy stop mountaintop removal. The sheer destructiveness of the practice means Massey destroys in order to provide coal. The more destruction, the more necessary and urgent the passage of federal legislation to regulate these unsound practices. Massey can be proactive and do what it can to green its practices or be reactive as lawsuits flow in and lobbying for mountaintop removal ban intensifies. There is no way to win by extracting coal the way you currently are.

Can’t the American energy industry do better? If coal is green, it will have to be extracted through green mining practices. There’s no way a green wash will work as more and more mountains are levelled. To make coal feasible and marketable in an age of global warming, consumers must be comfortable with every phase of its acquisition and use.

Mountaintop removal doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Massey has already paid a fine for violating environmental regulations. Political changes are underway, including a pledge to “clean up after Bush.” A government friendly to Big Energy might not be so much longer, particularly to coal which is such a big source of mercury, greenhouse gases and CO2. I’d get ahead of the problem while you can, otherwise the solution imposed legally and/or federally will make your practices illegal outright or very costly.

By electing–voluntarily a green(er) approach–you may lose short-term profit, but the gravy Massey has enjoyed under Bush government will come soon to an end anyway. Rather than be at the top of the payback list, why doesn’t Massey change its practices now? The profit downturn resulting from greening your practices could easily be absorbed into a quarterly charge. Planting windmills on the damaged site might start to compensate for the destruction. Above all, don’t keep destroying mountains! Your shareholders will appreciate the changes you make over the longterm.

I will hopefully post some of my research and links on greening my home’s energy. The technologies are exploding. I’m also keen on efficiency, as I’m not sure how much conservation I can do in this big house for now. I’m looking a CHP (Combined Heat and Power) systems that use natural gas–not ideal but compared to coal virtually anything is probably better (and the natgas when burned very efficiently produces much fewer greenhouse gases.)