Why on God's green earth is mountaintop removal allowed?

energy coal fuel power mountain top removal

A Mountain Blown Apart

Today I received a mass email from Matt Wasson at, and it got me thinking: I've mentioned mountaintop removal several times in blog posts, but I don't think I have a post dedicated to the travesty that is mountain top removal coal "mining".  Matt linked to a great Opinion piece featured in the Chattanooga Time Free Press on the topic which opens with the following:

Among the most destructive environmental abuses in this nation, the most deliberate, unconscionable and widespread has to be the form of coal-mining known as "mountain-top removal" mining. Indeed, "mining" is hardly the word for this premeditated, callously calculated, man-made catastrophe.

A few men using enormous amounts of explosives essentially blow away the top of southern Appalachian mountains, sending tsunami-like cascades of rocks, trees and debris into the valleys below. The crushing avalanche chokes and poisons streams and wells that long have nourished valley towns and farms and wildlife habitat -- all to expose coal seams that soon will be depleted.

And when they finish scrapping off the coal -- coal that should be mined by customary deep-shaft mine methods, and would employ far more miners if so taken -- the mountain destroyers merely shove back an unstable pile of rocks. Where the mountain and forests and wildlife used to be, they end up planting Japanese bunch grass, the only vegetation that still may grow on theses pitiful sites.

And that pretty much sums it up.

With Global Warming getting all the focus on why we need to shift power generation away from coal, not too many people are aware of mountain-top removal.  It's not just the fact that mountains that are hundreds of millions of years old vanish forever because we want to burn their innards for some electricity, it's that an entire ecosystem is disrupted because of our short sighted desire for cheaper coal.

The email from focuses on the Appalachia Restoration Act, which is a bill working its way through the U.S. Senate that will make it harder for coal companies to destroy mountains and pollute streams with their waste.  If you are wondering if you get your power from a coal plant that uses mountaintop removed coal, check out this great tool that was created by iLoveMountains.

Unlike some environmental issues where I can understand some opposition, I just can't see how anyone can justify blowing up mountains and leaving behind waste.  It's like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  It's just not right and should not be allowed to exist.  And no, cheap coal is not a justification, it's a short-sighted excuse.

Watch this amazing video on the impacts of Mountaintop removal. "Best" quote from the video by Coal Association talking head: "We're removing mountain tops, we're not removing the entire mountain".  That's like saying, "I didnt kill the man officer, I just killed his head".

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