Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Coal Bowl Week

Can someone please kill me right now? I've been able to keep it out of my head up until now, but just the thought of the coal mining industry getting any good publicity makes me sick. There are people that do a much better job of making my point than I do, so I think I'll let them do that.

Large valley fills like the one pictured are created when mining companies dump waste rock and dirt from mountaintop removal mining operations into headwater streams. Over 2000 miles of streams have been buried in central Appalachia. Most of these fills have been illegally authorized by the Army Corps of Engineers, using a lenient nationwide general permit.

Coal mining has left a legacy of pollution in central Appalachia. Acid mine drainage destroys aquatic life and makes water unfit for human consumption and many industrial uses. For the first time, counter to law and with support of the Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, West Virginia has issued a new mining permit that it knows will create perpetual acid mine drainage. The Center is working on many fronts to stop the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s irresponsible permitting practices. Photo is of acid mine drainage in Preston County.

I'm not mad at coal miners. I have a lot of respect, not to mention relatives that mine coal, for coal miners. It's the companies that make this happen, and the politicians and government agencies that look the other way.

I understand that everyone wants some sort of corporate sponsorship for everything these days, but the money each school is receiving isn't really all that much. I think I said it a lot better with a little help from a friend last year.

And that brings me to my point. This post was instigated by a comment from friend and former band mate, Xose, when he said of the "Friends of Coal Bowl",

"Friends of Coal" Bowl should use the more accurate title of "Out-of-state-corporate-interests that are here to rape WV and leave its inhabitants unskilled, uneducated and living on toxic waste dumps" Bowl.

Coal does a lot of good and bad for this state. The jobs and money it generates can't be easily replaced. However, a bi-product of coal is the destruction of our environment, and hundreds of coal miners die from black lung disease every year in WV. That just doesn't seem like something I want to celebrate or have associated with my Mountaineers.

I know there is a game to talk about, but I just had to speak my mind on all this before I go back to loving football. Please go back to feeling good about the fact that football season is here, and have a station picked out to flip to when commercials come on about the Fiends of Coal. Yes, that's how I spell it.


MountainLaurel said...


Thank you thank you thankyou!

I am a diehard WVU fan, have been ever since I can remember. I could even deal with the Coal Bowl. But the friends of coal bowl just rankles me. Every time I see a Friends of Coal commercial, it makes me sick to see the sanctimoniousness of the owners, as they kill both the environment, the miners, and the entire community.

My dad worked in a mine; my grandfather was a miner. I strongly support responsible coal mining. But there has been precious little of that lately.

West, By God said...

Well, I agree with you that "Friends of Coal Bowl" is a dumb name for a football game. I understand the money behind that name, and it pisses me off that this kind of politics is adulterating my beloved sport on a day when we should be celebrating the utter destruction of Marshall.

However, don't be so hard on the coal industry. I dearly love the last few clean streams and rivers in the state, and I would literally cry if they were turned yellow and lifeless. However, there have been strict regulations for years on how coal operations have to protect the environment. They have high tech methods for treating water supplies. Coal executives have gone to jail for cutting corners. Most of the destruction we see across the state was caused many years before the regulations were in place. Most acid mine drainage comes from century-old underground mines that were never properly sealed. Modern strip mines must legally be reclaimed in an environmentally friendly manner. You'd be surprised how beautiful and useful some reclaimed strip mines are. In fact, there are places that you would never guess used to be huge strip operations.

My family has a long history working in the mines, just as yours do. You cannot discount their contribution to the wealth of our nation. Our nation is still one that runs on coal, regardless of what we would like to see. West Virginia needs to take a leading role in development of sustainable energy in the coming years, but we can't demonize the coal industry when they are supplying the power that we consumers demand.

Sure, there are cleaner ways to do things. If we offer financial incentives (by way of tax breaks) to the coal companies to be cleaner and safer, I have no doubt they'll get better. In recent years however, the trend has been to tax them to the breaking point, which encourages them to cut corners and worry more about the bottom line than the environment.

MountainLaurel said...

I'll agree with some points, West by God. I have seen some lovely reclaimed strip mines. But you can't reclaim a mountain whose top has been cut off. You must move it, which interferes with all the water movement in the area and eventually causes the kind of flooding we see in the coal fields of West Virginia. it's not that these folks are too dumb to build away from the river. it's often that they were away from the creeks, and the creeks moved. It doesn't take much.

Yes, there are stringent environmental regulations in place, which are often ignored. I say we stiffen the fines for infractions to encourage them to mine more responsibly and protect the lives of the coal miners who must go down there every day.

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