This Week in Coal

Cross-posted from Appalachian Voices

The events in “coal news” this week have been thought provoking and encouraging, ranging from the anniversary of one of the greatest coal related tragedies to the recognition of a Kentucky hero by President Barack Obama. So without further delay, here they are:

February 26 was the 39th anniversary of the Buffalo Creek flood that killed 125 people when Buffalo Mining Company’s refuse dam broke. A Citizen’s Commission decided to recommend that Buffalo Mining Company be held responsible for the murder of these citizens. The event was a catastrophe for the entire state of West Virginia and demonstrated the negative impact that coal has on the society as well as the environment.

In other news, a Grand Jury indicted Hughie Elbert Stover, the Security Chief for Massey Energy’s Big Branch Mine, on Monday February 28 for lying to investigators and destroying mine records. A Federal criminal investigation was launched after an explosion in April 2010 at the mine killed 29 people.

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But there is hope! On March 1 Arch Coal agreed to pay $4 million dollars for water violations and change their practices to comply with the EPA’s Clean Water Act. The $4 million dollars will be divided in between the Federal Government, Kentucky, and West Virginia. Arch Coal, which provides 16 percent of the United States Coal, was charged with discharging pollutants without permits and not following conditions of permits which they held.

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March 2 author, conservationist, and advocate Wendell Berry was awarded the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama for his writings that explore humankind’s connections with the environment. Berry was involved last month in a sit-in of the Kentucky governor’s office to protest mountain top removal coal mining.

While the news from this week is encouraging, we must continue to heed the reminder of the Buffalo Creek flood and examine coal’s impact on our lives and the environment. As John Collins Rudolph wrote about in his New York Times Blog, a Harvard University Study determined “that coal costs the United States economy $140 billion to $242 billion a year.” The catastrophe at Buffalo Creek was just the tip of the iceberg. The effects of coal on the United States are still here and grow larger every day. Let us continue raising awareness and petitioning our representatives to address the impacts of coal.

-Griff Crews is currently an intern from Appalachian State University where he is studying Communication Studies

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This Week in Coal

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