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Scientists Call for End to Mountaintop Mines

Writing in the journal Science, scientists from a range of disciplines and institutions are calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop issuing mountaintop coal mining permits.  The scientists synthesized data and conducted new studies to assess the breadth of environmental impacts from this type of mining.  Duke University biogeochemist Emily Bernhardt says one of the top concerns is filling adjacent valleys with the mining waste, or spoil.

“We estimate conservatively that more than 1500 miles of Appalachian headwater streams have been lost due to direct filling or the direct impacts of building sediment ponds associated with mountaintop mining.”

In a separate announcement, Kentucky’s Energy and Environmental Protection Cabinet announced new guidelines for reducing the amount of valley fills.

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Environment Local News

Coal's Economics Could Face Challenges in KY, D.C.

Kentucky’s jobless rate is still at a troubling high, although the mining industry says it retained jobs over the past two months.  But the picture may be more complex for the industry.  Appalachian coal production has fallen over the decade.  And according to the Energy Information Administration, Kentucky coal is among the more expensive to buy.  Berea, Kentucky-based Mountain Association for Community Economic Development’s Justin Maxson says his organization found Kentucky may not be benefiting economically from coal as much as once thought.

“Our report looks at the competitiveness of eastern coal versus western coal.  And there are lots of reasons why eastern coal is just less competitive than it used to be.  And so the market share is growing smaller, which is part of this tough reality that the longer term economic future of coal is pretty bleak,” says Maxson.

Pending climate change legislation as well as changing mining regulations could also impact the industry.