Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mountain Top Removal: WV and DC

The Washington Post featured an article on West Virginia's coalfields: Stripping Mountains to Power D.C.--In W.Va., Mining Companies Shear Off Peaks And Transform Landscape in Search for Coal by David A. Fahrenthold, Sunday, April 20, 2008.

...The links that bind the cathedral-ceiling suburbs of Washington to the blasted-out mines of West Virginia can be traced through federal energy records. The Washington Post analyzed almost four years of data, showing where the six coal-fired power plants across the D.C. region bought their supply.

The records make one thing clear: The plants have been buying a lot more coal. Total purchases were more than 40 percent higher in 2006 than in 2004. The increase came as the Washington region's demand for electricity grew 18 percent since 2001, driven by population growth and an increasingly wired culture. D.C. area plants do not send their electricity straight to local homes but feed it into the multi-state regional power grid.

Records also show that about 32 percent of the coal the plants bought came from one kind of mine in this corner of Appalachia -- a "surface" operation, where miners do not have to tunnel.

The region, where southern West Virginia meets western Virginia and eastern Kentucky, is home to the vast majority of mountaintop mines in the United States.....

In all, the federal government has said, these mines have affected, or could affect by 2012, about 816,000 acres. That is an area 20 times the size of the District, scattered in patches across Appalachia.

Officials at the Environmental Protection Agency said they have pushed the coal companies to make mines smaller as well as to rebuild and reseed more mountains. They said, however, that the coal inside the mountains -- known for producing less-harmful emissions -- is too valuable to stop the practices.

"You've got a decision that's got to be made, on a daily basis, about the energy needs of this country," said Greg Peck of the EPA's Office of Water....

The Post also has a graphic comparing high-wall mining and mountaintop removal and a "multimedia presentation."

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