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Wind Versus Big Coal and Oil

August 15, 2010

“It’s the economy stupid” (James Carville). In previous posts we’ve argued that environmental issues cannot be addressed separately from economics. With the official number of jobless in the US now at nearly 15 million, and millions more underemployed, environmental struggles are more difficult than ever. For example, when environmentalists ask for an extension of the off-shore drilling moratorium, the first thing we hear is about the loss of jobs.

Mountain top removal: The jobs vs. the environment  issue is especially pronounced when it comes to one of the most ecologically destructive practices of all times — mountain top removal (MTR). Communities in West Virginia and other parts of Appalachia are split in two — many against the practice, but many for it — understandably anxious about the loss of work if MTR is banned. In the photo (bottom left) demonstrators ask EPA to ban MTR. Thus far EPA has responded to the campaign by making it harder for coal companies to obtain MTR permits — but no ban yet.

MTR in Boone Co. W.VA. Photo: Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

According to OMB Watch, The National Mining Association (NMA) filed a lawsuit on July 20 against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) claiming that new EPA enforcement guidelines (April 2010) unlawfully obstruct permitting of coal mining operations. NMA claims the new guidelines prohibit certain types of surface mining and that EPA denied NMA the opportunity to review and comment on the guidelines before they became final.


Workers protest environmentalists' campaign to halt MTR. Source: W.VA Gazette

Families and environmental allies call on EPA to ban MTR: Rain Forest Action Network

Photos show a house divided


Must see video: Today’s NY Times has great video feature that brings the issue into clear focus. The feature (produced by Ben Werschkul) on the fight for Coal River Mountain also suggests the best hope for stopping disastrous practices such as MTR, risk-prone oil ventures, and disposal of hazardous coal ash in unlined pits is to fight for better alternatives that produce jobs. In the case of mountain tops — the alternative is clear — wind power.  Some of the best wind resources in the nation are located in Appalachian coal regions.

“There’s wind in them thar hills:” Take a look at the Coal River Mountain Watch website– the article posted describes a study by Windlogics demonstrating that every ridge in the area of Coal Mountain has sufficient resources for the development of wind power.

In closing, we note that similar campaigns are taking place along the Mid-Atlantic Coast. See article and video on efforts organized by the Sierra Club (Richmond, VA chapter).

Environmentalists need to heed Mr. Carville’s advice; its all about jobs.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    August 15, 2010 1:43 pm

    There’s a special place in hell for Massey Coal.


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