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Wed, 2011-07-27 11:49Farron Cousins
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Mountaintop Removal Mining Directly Linked To 60,000 Cancer Cases In Appalachia

A new study from the Journal of Community Health concludes that cancer rates in areas of Appalachia where mountaintop removal mining (MTR) is taking place are more than twice as high as areas that are not near MTR sites. According to the study, as many as 60,000 individual cancer cases can be linked directly to exposure from MTR debris.

As reported on Alternet, the study was the first of its kind to involve a door-to-door questionnaire, where researchers used community members’ own stories and medical records to determine the results. These door-to-door interviews were conducted in mountaintop removal mining areas, as well as non-coal mining counties for use as a control.

Sat, 2011-07-16 10:44Carol Linnitt
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Post Carbon Institute Analysis Suggests Shale Gas (Still) Worse Than Coal For Climate

Shale gas cannot provide a low carbon “interim” fuel for the transition to a clean energy future, according to David Hughes, fellow at the Post Carbon Institute (PCI). Gas advocates have long advertized unconventional gas as a clean alternative to coal and other polluting fossil fuels. But the cleanliness of unconventional gas is challenged by others who claim that lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shale gas are in fact higher than coal. 

One such claim, maintained by a group of scientists from Cornell University led by Dr. Robert Howarth, puts shale gas GHG emissions 20 to 100 percent higher than coal on a 20-year timeframe. Their study, published in the peer-reviewed Climactic Change Letters, has received enormous criticism from the gas industry and its supporters. Several reviews have challenged the integrity of the Cornell study, including a presentation given by scientist Timothy Skone from the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). According to Skone, GHG emissions from gas are 48 percent lower on a 20-year timeframe.

In an analysis entitled “Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Shale Gas Compared to Coal,” Hughes compares the two conflicting conclusions to get to the source of the disparity. With a little number crunching, he discovers that there may be less of a disagreement than meets the eye.

Fri, 2011-07-15 14:01Graham Readfearn
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King Coal Australia Plans to Price Carbon

Coal ships at Australia's Newcastle port

SO Australia’s carbon price cards are finally on the table.

From July next year, the Federal Government will look to price greenhouse gas emissions at $23 per tonne rising 2.5 per cent each year.

Then, in 2015, this is replaced by a cap-and-trade system with the price set by the market.

That’s the simple explanation. The devil is in the detail, of which there is an awful lot.

To make the plan politically acceptable, a complex array of exemptions, sweeteners, compensation measures and adjustments to the tax system have been negotiated.

Fri, 2011-07-15 10:21Farron Cousins
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GOP Coal Ash Bill May Be Hazardous To Your Health

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted this week to allow a new bill on the regulation of coal ash to be considered for a full House vote. The bill, known as The Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act, would prevent the E.P.A. from classifying coal ash (or fly ash) as a toxic substance, and instead would allow individual states to make their own rules regarding the storage and re-use of coal ash waste.

The bill passed the committee by a vote of 35 – 12, with all Committee Republicans and six Democrats voting in favor of the bill. The E.P.A. ruled in 2000 that coal ash was not a hazardous substance, but proposed a rule last summer that would change the classification to “hazardous.” The agency is still debating which rule will stand, and announced recently that the decision will not be made this year.

The bill was put forward by freshman Republican David McKinley from West Virginia. West Virginia is one of the country’s leading producers of both coal and coal waste. Under the guise of “saving jobs,” McKinley introduced the bill earlier this year. But a look beyond the surface reveals McKinley’s true intentions for putting forth the legislation.

During the course of his short career, McKinley has already received more than $205,000 from the mining industry, which includes donations from some of the largest coal companies in West Virginia – Alpha Natural Resources (a leading company in mountaintop removal mining,) International Coal Group, and Patriot Coal. The following chart is from OpenSecrets, showing McKinley’s top donors:

Fri, 2011-07-08 13:03Josh Nelson
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Reducing Air Pollution is Well Worth the Cost

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to protect states from sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution emitted from coal plants in other states. After dragging its feet for a while, the Bush administration introduced the Clean Air Interstate Rule in 2005. Due to its over-reliance on emissions trading, the Clean Air Interstate Rule was shot down (PDF) in December 2008 by the U.S. Court of appeals for the District of Columbia. One year ago today, the Obama administration proposed a plan – the Clean Air Transport Rule – to replace the Bush administration’s flawed Clean Air Interstate Rule.

Finally, today, the EPA finalized an updated version of this rule, now appropriately named the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (large PDF), which requires power plants in 27 eastern states and the District of Columbia to significantly reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution.

The public health benefits of this rule, which goes into effect at the beginning of 2012, promise to be enormous (PDF, p. 12):


Sat, 2011-06-25 04:45Laurel Whitney
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Fossil Fuel Propaganda In Education: Connecting the Dots

Get ‘em while their young!

It’s a widely know fact that children, whose immune systems are weaker than adults and still developing, are especially susceptible to getting sick from the chemicals and toxins found in fossil fuel pollution. They are also susceptible to another kind of fossil fuel pollution: educational propaganda.

Scientists have even discovered that brains don’t fully develop and mature until the age of 25. That’s why kids continually shove unidentified objects up their nose, light random things on fire, eat worms, and think licking the light socket might be the best ideas of their short-lived little lives. It’s also why they won’t be able to tell the difference between well-rounded educational materials and industry propaganda.

That’s also why it’s disturbing to see the array of news reports showcasing coloring books, cartoons, and lovable characters that the fossil fuel industry has come up with to entice little tykes. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill energy education. The reason these materials are so exploitative is because none of them explore any of the pitfalls of dirty energy.  There’s nothing about public health concerns, water pollution, or the decimation of local ecosystems. And there’s definitely nothing about climate change, which surely belongs on the top 10 list of things kids should be peeing their pants about (after the closet monster of course).

Fri, 2011-06-24 14:42Graham Readfearn
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Lord Monckton Brands Australian Climate Advisor a Nazi

Lord Christopher Monckton's Nazi slur

NEVER a stranger to controversy or a fossil-fuel funded think-tank, Scotland-based British peer Lord Christopher Monckton has been caught jumping the proverbial climate denial shark just weeks before a nationwide tour of Australia.

In a conference speech in Los Angeles earlier this month, Lord Monckton compared the Australian Government’s climate change policy advisor Professor Ross Garnaut to a Nazi, saying his views were “fascist”.

In order to ram his rhetorical point home into the darkened Californian conference hall, Lord Monckton displayed a very large Nazi swastika next to a quote from Professor Garnaut, whose reports have been informing the Government’s position as it attempts to introduce a price on carbon.

News of the insult on ABC website The Drum sparked blanket newspaper and television coverage across Australia.

Thu, 2011-06-16 14:15Laurel Whitney
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Stories From the March on Blair Mountain - Part 1 The March

I arrived a few days early to headquarters in Marmet, WV with an overly large pack that threatened to topple me over with one slightly unbalanced step. A sleeping bag, multiple changes of clothes, a bottle of Listerine, and ample bug spray would have to last me through the long and arduous journey of marching 50 miles along highways careening through the West Virginian Appalachians.

Over the next week, hundreds walked along the path of the original 1921 miners who rose up against the tyrannous coal companies in an attempt to unionize. In the 2011 March on Blair Mountain, community leaders, union members, and conservationists rallied to save the historical labor icon of Blair Mountain, sentenced for destruction via mountaintop removal mining (MTR).  We marched to protest against MTR and to advocate for safer working conditions and sustainable jobs for West Virginians, whose economy and proud natural landscape have been eroded by greedy coal barons.

Thu, 2011-06-16 12:41Farron Cousins
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Bobby Kennedy Jr. Talks "The Last Mountain" With Director Bill Haney

The companies involved in mountaintop removal mining (MTR) are beginning to get much-needed exposure in the national media. For years, this issue has been relegated to a few mentions here and there, with national media outlets virtually ignoring the devastation taking place in rural America. The media’s silence, and the public’s resulting lack of knowledge on the issue, has allowed a large number of the mountains in communities along the Appalachian range to be blown up and mined for every piece of coal the industry can find. As communities continue to fight MTR coal giants like Massey Energy and others, they are continuously faced with the devastation that these energy companies have left in their backyards.

The video below is from Ring of Fire Radio, and features a discussion between Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and documentary film director Bill Haney. The two are discussing their new film “The Last Mountain.

Fri, 2011-06-10 12:56Farron Cousins
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Massey Energy Is Not The Only Mountaintop Removal Mining Villain

This week, hundreds of protesters are marching to Blair Mountain in West Virginia to call for an end to mountaintop removal coal mining. The march commemorates the Battle of Blair Mountain – one of the most significant labor battles in American history, and one of the few times in history when a sitting U.S. president threatened to use air strikes against American citizens. The group Appalachia Rising organized the march to draw attention to the practice of mountaintop mining, which is destroying large swaths of the Appalachian Mountains. Blair Mountain was added to a list of historic U.S. sites back in 2008, but due to pressure from the coal industry, the mountain was removed from the protected list and could now be subjected to mountaintop removal mining.

Mountaintop removal mining (MTR) entails blowing the tops off of entire mountains in order to extract the coal seems within. The method became popular when coal companies realized that they could produce two and a half times as much coal per worker hour by removing the tops of mountains, rather than traditional coal mining methods. As a result, some states have reduced the number of coal workers by as much as 60%, while output and profits have remained steady.

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