Fossil Fuels pennsylvania dep reveals damage to structures and water supplies by underground coal mining

Published on January 5th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


Clean Coal: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

January 5th, 2011 by  

pennsylvania dep reveals damage to structures and water supplies by underground coal miningThe Pennsylvania DEP has just come out with a new report that should help put the “clean coal” myth to rest once and for all. According to the report, the subsidence caused by underground coal mining has impacted hundreds of buildings, springs, wells and ponds across ten counties in southwestern Pennsylvania, where 50 mines are active. Taking into consideration the devastation caused by mountaintop coal mining in the nearby Appalachian region, it’s hard to see where the “clean” fits into the picture.

Underground Mines and Surface Damage

The potential for damage is not limited to individual buildings and small local water supplies. The lake behind a dam in Pennsylvania recently had to be drained because the dam was undermined, and an investigation revealed that the surface damage caused by underground coal mines can range much farther than previously thought from the actual mine site.  Also in Pennsylvania is the notorious case of Centralia, in which the entire town had to be abandoned due to an underground coal mine fire that started 50 years ago and is still burning with no end in sight, and the Jeddo Mine Tunnel, which has drained polluted water into local streams for more than 100 years.

Whither Clean Coal?

Given the reluctance of local communities to host new coal fired power plants, and the conversion of existing coal plants to renewable biomass, coal is slowly beginning to lose its prominent – and risky – role in our energy landscape. There’s no denying that improvements in coal burning technology are needed as we transition to safer and more sustainable energy sources, but the only true long term improvement would be to stop destroying large chunks of our country’s natural heritage in order to feed coal fired power plants – and especially to stop the apparent insanity of blowing up parts of America to export coal overseas.

Image: Coal by psd on

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Correct blamer

    Yes, lets dig other countries coal but not our own, lets not use electricity before we have discover a best energy source that will not affect us geologically, estatically, politically, economically, humanitarianically,… or spiritually in case the religious group complains. I love to complain and please dont ask me for solutions, or I will be complained at.

  • No matter how you try to whitewash it, coal will never be “clean.” It contains really bad toxins that in burning will either be spewed into the air or be concentrated in the ash or other solid toxic waste. The coal industry’s growing list of paid apologists now includes CNN, which, according to the following After the Press video report, aired a story recently about a giant coal ash dump on the W. Va./Penn border – with the “report” in fact sponsored by an airbrushed spot for The Coalition for Clean Coal.

    • Tina Casey

      Steve: Thank you for your comment. Coal ash disposal is an issue that I didn’t address in the post but it’s a hot one. I’m sure a lot of readers will recall the coal ash dump disaster in Tennessee that grabbed the headlines near the end of 2009, just a few months before the Gulf oil spill erupted.

  • Leland Searles, Iowa Environmental Council

    I don’t see a link to the PA DEP report. That would be useful for me and perhaps others.

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