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Snowguy716

Mountaintop mining

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I feel kind of dumb responding to myself, but I realize how annoying "Hey, look at this" posts are without any kind of explanation as to what you might find there.

Mountain-top mining is a coal-exec's dream. Basically, rather than sending in lots of people into a mountain to get coal out at a higher cost and at a slow rate, you simply take the top of the mountain off to get to the coal and excavate it in a matter of weeks with only a few people working.

All the tailings, or in this case, the top of the mountain, is simply pushed over into the valleys. This process has diverted and changed flows to rivers that have resulted in floods that have killed a lot of people.

The process also kills the top of the mountain and often the river and the valley. Regeneration takes much much much much longer because there is no established topsoil and the soil is often toxic.

The coal often mixes with water creating a toxic slurry. Most mining companies simply dig out ponds for this to collect in and then dam it up. In 2000, one of those broke open and caused what the EPA called the worst environmental disaster ever east of the Mississippi river.

This whole process severely damages the environment, in effect annihilating the environment anywhere on or near the mountain top mining, and also takes jobs away from local communities as the mountaintop can be removed by a few people and dynamite.

Yet you hear little, if nothing, about this process.

My initial reaction upon seeing that video made me very angry. The coal industry is literally responsible for the deaths of all those people and for unprecidented environmental degradation all with the "go-ahead" from our government.

The power plant at my school, which burns coal, no longer buys coal from the eastern U.S, not only because it burns dirtier with more sulfur, but also because of this practice. There are even proposals to stop burning coal altogether, but mountaintop mining has kept hte price of coal very low.

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Yes, it is called strip mining and is very controversial. The mining companies claim they restore the land once they are finished but it's true the environment is not the same as it was before they hit the place. I think the problem will get worse with the increased emphasis on using coal to replace petroleum products.

I am not sure what the answer is to getting this coal, but it is another example that we can all do our part by doing what we can to reduce energy usage.

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Yes, it is called strip mining and is very controversial. The mining companies claim they restore the land once they are finished but it's true the environment is not the same as it was before they hit the place. I think the problem will get worse with the increased emphasis on using coal to replace petroleum products.

I am not sure what the answer is to getting this coal, but it is another example that we can all do our part by doing what we can to reduce energy usage.

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I was just looking on Google Earth. You can see the scars in eastern KY, West Virginia, Western Virginia... all over the map. It gives you a good feel for how widespread the destruction is.

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The bigger issue here is the human race is consuming the equivalent in about 7 earth's worth of resouces to sustain the lifestyles of the western economies and the USA of course is the leader of the pack. Strip mining is a symptom of this and as long as it is out of sight, it is out of mind as well.

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My father, my two grandfathers, and my uncle, and even my neighborhors were all coal miners in Western Kentucky. I have over 200 years of coal mining history in my family with the most recent being my fater. He spent 18 years working for Peabody Coal Company in Muhlenberg County, KY. Muhlenberg County, my hometown, was at one point the most productive field in the world. Mining more tons of coal per-year than any other country in the world. Now, it's a ghost town, with only a couple thousand employeed by mines and the rest are either laid-off, retireed, dead, or out of work. To every side of the story, there is another side to tell. I don't endorse mountain top removal, but it's a living for a family that would otherwise be living off food stamps. What would you do if the ball was in any of your courts here? When it comes down to having a roof over your families head, or not...to me the choice is very clear.

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My father, my two grandfathers, and my uncle, and even my neighborhors were all coal miners in Western Kentucky. I have over 200 years of coal mining history in my family with the most recent being my fater. He spent 18 years working for Peabody Coal Company in Muhlenberg County, KY. Muhlenberg County, my hometown, was at one point the most productive field in the world. Mining more tons of coal per-year than any other country in the world. Now, it's a ghost town, with only a couple thousand employeed by mines and the rest are either laid-off, retireed, dead, or out of work. To every side of the story, there is another side to tell. I don't endorse mountain top removal, but it's a living for a family that would otherwise be living off food stamps. What would you do if the ball was in any of your courts here? When it comes down to having a roof over your families head, or not...to me the choice is very clear.

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^ I agree. But unless anyone here has lived in these regions, it's really hard to say what is wrong and what isn't and be truthful about it. The whole ordeal is a big cluster mess that will never be fixed easily. I hate that, but it is the truth. Take a look at the oil companies and government and you'll see what I mean. It's about money, politics, and did I mention politics? LOL!!! I hate to say it, but you are right about the hording of money instead of paying men and women for a decent days work. Again though, it is a huge web that has very little chance of being fixed because there are unions, lobbyist and everything else involved. When someone gets in the Presidents office and honestly decides to do something, then it will happen. Until then, it's just status quo with coal companies.

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Flooding is frequent and sometimes severe in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia and some blame should be shouldered by the companies that employ this strip-mining technique. I was sent by my work to a customer site in Mullens, WV after a flood once and could see where the waters in the downtown area reached almost the top of the 2nd floor. Most of the locals say flooding like this never happened until strip mining came around.

So many Mtns in this area have been blasted or cut away that it's just sad.

Personally, I suggest everyone should tour this part of the country. The damage the companies here are doing to our environment and the advantage they are taking of the locals is a travesty.

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Push to stop mountaintop mining gets no traction

What Truman Hurt describes sounds like the scene from a war zone: Distant explosions, dust plumes rising skyward, sudden jolts that rattle dishes and knock pictures off walls. But the eastern Kentucky resident is describing mountaintop removal mining, a process in which some of the state's tallest peaks are flattened with explosives and heavy machinery to get coal out of the ground.

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Are Kentucky lawmakers really in bed with mining companies that much?

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Are Kentucky lawmakers really in bed with mining companies that much?

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They are definitely in bed with them to a degree. However, you have to understand that there is no other profitable industry in that part of the state. Notice all the Kentucky lawmakers mentioned in the article opposing mountaintop removal are in more urban areas, like Lexington and Louisville. It would be the equivalent of political suicide for lawmakers in the eastern part of the state to oppose the coal mining companies. Eliminating the strip mining industry would mean most good paying jobs in the area are gone, which means you don't get re-elected. It would be like politicians in Northern Minnesota to oppose logging. How well would that go over?

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GOOD NEWS

Environmentalists hope ruling ends mountaintop removal mining

Key --

1. A federal judge Friday ruled that the Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law by issuing valley fill permits for mountaintop removal mines without conducting extensive environmental reviews.

2. The decision involves four mines, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and two other environmental groups and could affect more than 30 pending permits for surface mines in West Virginia.

3. It has broad implications for other mines, active and proposed.

Article information: "Environmentalists hope ruling ends mountaintop removal mining, By TIM HUBER, AP, Tuesday, March, 27, 2007"

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Ex-Corps project manager charged with falsifying records for mining discharge permits

Key --

1. A former project manager for the US Army Corps of Engineers, who resigned recently, was charged with falsifying records for discharge permits for five mining companies.

2. Early Sparks of Sassafras, Kentucky, was indicted last week by a grand jury in Pikeville on five counts of making false statements.

2a. If convicted, he could receive 25 years in prison.

3. Sparks forged signatures on some documents and issued some permits (from 2002-2005) with submitting the applications to the Corps regulatory branch in Louisville for a final decision.

3a. The permits were required because mining companies had to discharge dredge and other fill materials into waterways.

Article information: "Ex-Corps project manager charged with falsifying records for mining discharge permits, By Beth Musgrave, HERALD-LEADER, Mon, Apr. 09, 2007"

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I've been to a big strip mine outside of Butte, MT; I believe they mine copper there, but I'm not positive. They say it'll run out in the next 30 years, and then the entire town (a charming place with a rough edge) will die out. The mine pit is HUGE, and the 'lake' inside of it even looks horribly toxic...

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I've been to a big strip mine outside of Butte, MT; I believe they mine copper there, but I'm not positive. They say it'll run out in the next 30 years, and then the entire town (a charming place with a rough edge) will die out. The mine pit is HUGE, and the 'lake' inside of it even looks horribly toxic...

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Environmentalists drop challenge of Logan mining permit

Notes --

1. Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and the Natural Resources Defense Council dropped their legal challenge of a mountaintop removal site in Logan County Tuesday. The challenge, if successful, would have temporarily blocked the company's North Rum permit.

1a. The challenge was withdrawn because the company "had already destroyed the streams" that the groups wanted to protect. The groups wanted to block the permit as part of a broader case that was initially filed in October 2003 over the Army Corps of Engineers streamlined permitting process for mountaintop removal that would have allowed entire valley fills.

2. The mine, which employs 200+ workers at Magnum Coal subsidiary Apogee Coal Co.'s Guyan Mine

3. The legal challenge to the permit, which was issued in March by the Army Corps of Engineers, had been scheduled a hearing May 31.

Article information: "Environmentalists drop challenge of Logan mining permit, Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette, May 24, 2007"

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I don't know how much you all keep up on this topic, but here are some nice developments.

Massey sued by Feds

Coal firm violated Clean Air Act more than 4,630 times, prosecutors allege

Notes --

1. Federal prosecutors allege that Massey Energy Company and its subsidiaries have illegally poured pollutants into West Virginia and Kentucky streams more than 4,633 times over the past six years. This is ~69,071 days' worth of violations (U.S. Clean Water Act). The U.S. District Court civil lawsuit asks the judge to block further discharges and fine seven of the subsidiaries either $27,500 or $32,500 for each day of the violation. This was filed May 10, 2007.

1a. They cite monitoring reports filed with West Virginia and Kentucky between January 2000 and March 2006 showing 4,100 violations of permitted average monthly or maximum daily discharge limits. From April to December 2006, West Virginia reported another 533 permit limit violations.

1b. West Virginia inspectors documented only 534 of the violations between January 2000 and March 2006. 255 violations also occurred in the course of 1,943 violations of federal mining regulations.

2. In April, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration fined Massey $1.5 million for 25 violations stemming from a fire at the company's Aracoma Alma #1 Mine in Logan County. That cost two miners their lives. The January 2006 fire remains under federal investigation. West Virginia regulators have fined the company $70,000 over the violations at the mine, and the miners' widows have sued Massey, several subsidiaries, and its President, CEO, and Chairman, Don Blankenship.

Article information: "Massey sued by Feds, by Lawrence Messina, The Associated Press (published at the Charleston Gazette), May 12, 2007, pg. P1A"

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Massey downplays lawsuit

Notes --

1. Massey Energy Company faces $2.4 billion in fines. On Monday (May 14, 2007), the company downplayed the environmental damage (listed above). It also predicted "no major effect" to its bottom line from the lawsuit. The fines are $27,500 for each day of violation prior to March 15, 2004 and $32,500 for each day afterward.

2. Analysts warned investors, however. Massey shares lost 14% of their value on May 14, falling $4.25 to $26.08.

3. Massey Energy Co. CEO stated that the company's compliance rate is "99% or better" -- and that the impacts have had little or no impact on water quality.

Article information: "Massey downplays lawsuit, By The Associated Press, May 15, 2007"

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Any penalties should be below maximum, Massey says

Notes --

1. Massey Energy Company said on May 15, 2007 that the federal government has "inflated" the number of times it violated the U.S. Clean Water Act. They are also disputing the estimated $2.4 billion in fines, also stating that any fine would be "insignificant" for its finances. Massey is the nation's fourth-largest coal company by revenue. The company also stated that most of its violations caused "little or no environmental damage, and that none were intentional." Therefore, the fines should be significantly less than the maximum allowable per violation.

1a. Massey has stated that some of the violation occurred before it owned various mines -- although it was not specific.

2. In addition to the legal woes (two threads up) that Massey currently faces, a federal judge ruled in March 2007 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law by issuing permits for four Massey mountaintop removal mines without determining whether the environment would be harmed. The ruling, if upheld, could have far-reaching consequences for mountaintop removal sites throughout the United States.

Article information: "Any penalties should be below maximum, By The Associated Press, Massey says, May 16, 2007"

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EPA deal saved Massey contracts with government

Notes --

1. Four years ago, federal regulators cut Massey Energy Co. a deal that saved it from losing at least $85 million in coal sales to government-owned power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have not disclosed the settlement previously, and were obtained using a FOIA request. The deal kept Massey from being banned from government contracts after two of its subsidiaries pleaded guilt in 2002 to criminal Clean Water Act violations.

1a. It could have been barred from selling coal to the Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates 11 coal-fired plants in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky. It purchases 40 million tons of coal a year. Prior to the agreement, Massey's sales to the TVA was a very small portion of their bottom line (300,000 tons of coal). After the agreement, sales to the TVA quadrupled in the two years after (900,000 tons of coal in 2003; 1.2 million tons of coal in 2004).

1b. In August 2002, federal prosecutors charged Omar and Independence with criminal pollution violations related to blackwater spills in Boone County. The charges stemmed from leaks from the operations into Robinson Creek during June and August 2001. Both companies paid $200,000 in fines -- the maximum.

2. The agreement was revealed by the EPA and the DOJ in the federal court lawsuit filed last week. Massey was able to work out a deal with the EPA Suspension and Debarment Division one month prior to subsidiaries Omar Mining and Independence Coal pleading guilty to the criminal violations in December 2002. It was finalized in March 2003 when the CEO signed it.

2a. As a result of the agreement, Massey created a new compliance program that included regular audits, additional staff, better training, and a hot line for employees to report environmental problems.

Article information: "EPA deal saved Massey contracts with government, by Ken Ward Jr., Charleston Gazette, May 18, 2007"

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