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.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.