In Coal Country, Heat Rises over Latest Method of Mining ; Monday's Explosion Has Focused Attention on Mine Safety, but Environmentalists Worry about Long-Term Effects of 'Mountaintop Removal.'

By Amanda Paulson writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, January 3, 2006 | Go to article overview

In Coal Country, Heat Rises over Latest Method of Mining ; Monday's Explosion Has Focused Attention on Mine Safety, but Environmentalists Worry about Long-Term Effects of 'Mountaintop Removal.'


Amanda Paulson writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


When Maria Gunnoe looks over her 40-acre farm in southern West Virginia, she finds it hard to believe it's the same place that, growing up, she considered her "own little private heaven."

Seven floods in five years have washed out most of her yard, filled her barn with debris, and destroyed parts of her bridge. The stream where she used to swim and catch bait is now a pollution discharge system. The well water is now so toxic that bathing in it has caused problems.

"It's hard to absorb everything that's happened in the last seven years," Ms. Gunnoe says, looking at a photo of the farm in happier days, before the fruit trees fell victim to pollution and flooding and the surrounding horizon was forever altered.

In Gunnoe's opinion, there's one culprit: mountaintop removal mining.

It's a method of extracting coal that has become more common among the steep slopes of southern West Virginia and parts of Kentucky. It's the most efficient way to get the coal - an important energy source - and an economic boon for a struggling state, proponents say. But the practice, which involves blowing off the top of a mountain to reach the rich coal seams beneath, exacts a toll on the environment and the quality of life that some here, like Gunnoe, are increasingly unwilling to pay.

Here in Boone County, one of the poorest areas of one of the poorest states, residents are bringing lawsuits and launching local campaigns to save their piece of Appalachia. "The worst thing I can do at this point is sit back and keep my mouth shut," says Gunnoe, now an organizer for the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Mountaintop mining began in the 1970s, on a tiny scale. It increased significantly in the past decade, now accounting for about 95 percent of surface mining in southern West Virginia and between one-quarter and one-third of all coal mining in Appalachia.

"There are about 28-1/2 billion tons of coal in this area," says Bradford Frisby, associate general counsel for the National Mining Association, an industry group. "Mountaintop mining is definitely the most efficient means of removing the coal, and in a lot of these areas it's really the only way you can mine these particular coal seams."

But critics say it devastates the environment, particularly the forest ecosystems and the many streams buried under soil and debris blasted from the mountaintops. By conservative estimates, more than 1,200 miles of streams have been affected and 350 square miles of mountain land destroyed.

This fall, four federal agencies - the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the US Office of Surface Mining - issued a long- delayed Environmental Impact Statement on the practice. The study, originally intended to minimize harm from mountaintop mining, shifted in 2001 when then-deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles redirected it to focus on "centralizing and streamlining coal mine permitting" - which the final EIS does. The change infuriated environmentalists, who claim the government is weakening environmental regulations to help the mining industry.

"A lot of what has renewed the growth of mountaintop removal mining in the last four years has to be attributed to Bush administration policies that have removed any obstacle, including local citizens, standing in between industry and the mountains," says Joan Mulhern, legislative counsel at EarthJustice, an environmental law group. She cites a 2002 rule change that designates rubble from the blast as fill rather than as waste, and a plan to ease a restriction on mining within 100 feet of a stream.

The mining industry, for its part, says the mines operate with the strongest environmental regulations in the world. Moreover, coal is an increasingly important source of energy within US borders, says Luke Popovich, spokesman for the National Mining Association. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

In Coal Country, Heat Rises over Latest Method of Mining ; Monday's Explosion Has Focused Attention on Mine Safety, but Environmentalists Worry about Long-Term Effects of 'Mountaintop Removal.'
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.