Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mountaintop removal on CNN: "Battle for Blair Mountain"

On Sunday, Aug. 14, CNN aired the 45 minute documentary “Battle for Blair Mountain: Working in America”, about mountaintop removal strip mining for coal, particularly in southern West Virginia (Logan County), with Soledad O’Brien the host.  I have already reviewed several films about mountaintop removal on my movies blog (look for the label “coal mine issues”).

The specific incident covered in the film is the denial of a permit for “Spruce 1” (by the EPA, with Lisa Jackson as spokesperson), the largest mountaintop mine in the US, on Blair Mountain, near Kayford Mountain.

The EPA says its primary job is to protect the environment. Conservatives will argue that this destroys jobs.  Families whose breadwinners have lucrative jobs ($65 K a year) in the mountaintop mines resent the EPA and the “tree hugger” demonstrators. However, others argue that the coal can be extracted by underground mines, or by less aggressive forms of strip mining that would actually employ more miners.  (These include augering, and “box-cut” methods, well documented back in the 1970s.)

The film showed “reclamation”, where coal companies are supposed to approximate original contours. That sounds unlikely, as many streams are covered up (and at best, the land is restored with rock.)  Several hundred feet of overburden may be removed to get at a 5-10 foot coal seam (in the west, coal seams are thicker).  Gradually, parts of the western Appalachia become flattened as if part of the “Midwest”.  It’s a bit like male body shaving.  In twenty years, most of the “mountains” in Logan County would be gone.  (Of course, they used to say this about eastern Kentucky in 1970.)

Some coal miners oppose mountaintop removal, and are accused of “biting the hand that feeds them” or is this the hand that kills them.

Look also at this link on CNN, about jobs OR the environment, here

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