Saturday, December 20, 2008

Coal River Wind -- a better way

Coal River Mountain, West Virginia is slated by Massey Coal to become the next casualty of mountain top removal strip mining. This form of mining blasts the tops of mountains with dynamite, then hauls away tons of rock and soil, dumping this overburden in nearby valleys covering up streams and habitats. The photo on the right is Marsh Fork where some of the overburden of the projected Coal River Mountain mine will end up.

On the top left is Coal River Mountain as it looks to day, before any mining commences. The photographer is standing at the edge of an existing mountain top removal strip mine of what was once Kayford Mountain, looking southwest to Coal Mountain.
The bottom left an aerial view of what is left of Kayford Mountain, WV: an 11,000+ acre Mountaintop Removal coal mining site that sits just to the Northeast of Coal River Mountain.

A.T. Massey has already received permits that would allow them to engage in mountain top removal and valley fill operation on more than 3,000 acres of Coal River Mountain, and have two additional areas mapped, that would add and additional 3,000+ acres.

Local residents concerned about the impacts on the quality of life in their communities formed the Coal River Mountain Watch, and joined with regional and national environmental groups to suggest an alternative to mountain top removal -- a wind farm that would capitalize on the strong persistent winds on these West Virginia mountain ridges.

The coalition of groups funded a four month study of the economic potential of both the planned mountain top removal and the proposed wind farm. In sum, the study found that because the power generated by wind could continue indefinitely ("forever" as the fact sheet states), while the mine would be played out in 14 to 17 years, the proposed wind farm would generate both more energy and more dollars. Moreover,

"when externalities such as public health and environmental quality are factored in, a mountaintop removal mine ends up generating an economic LOSS of $600 million over its expected 17 year life. A wind farm on the other hand would remain profitable over the life of the wind farm. This means that when the true costs of mining are considered, the wind farm option wins hands-down." Rory McIlmoil, Coal River Wind.

The Coal River Mountain Watch and its partners are asking for support from you and others like you around the country, to generate more public awareness of the problems of mountain top removal and the possibility of economically viable, clean, renewable energy alternatives. Another goal is to create support for the national Clean Water Protection Act that would drastically restrict where the overburden from mining could be dumped, which would limit the scope of strip-mining and mountain top removal substantially. You can learn more about your own personal connection to mountain top removal and what can be done about it at I Love the Mountains.

4 comments:

E. R. Dunhill said...

Sue,
I'm a little blind without any of my maps in front of me. Is this site in southwestern WV? Do you know what river it drains into?

Sue said...

Coal River Mountain is just to the west and slightly north of Beckley, WV (so just west of I-77) in the southern half of the state. The area drains into the Coal River which runs north towards Charleston, WV, where it empties into the Kanawha River, and the Kanawha feeds into the Ohio River. If you follow the first link in the piece to the full report there are lots of maps in it.

E. R. Dunhill said...

Sue,
Thanks. I'll get a look at the site over the weekend.
On a related note, have you seen the breached TVA containment pond in TN?

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