The idea that mountaintop removal can be stopped in favor of underground mining is something that gets some traction now and again, especially by some folks in the environmental community.
But it’s worth remembering that the most efficient types of underground mining also take their toll on the environment (not to mention worker safety). One of the best examinations of this issue was done a while back by the good folks at the Center for Public Integrity, who published a detailed expose called The Hidden Costs of Clean Coal.
And now, we have a new report just issued today by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Citizens Coal Council, concluding that “Protection of Water Resources from Longwall Coal Mining is Needed in Southwestern Pennsylvania.” According to a press release, the report:
… Documents an internal administrative quagmire of illogical permit monitoring, baseless decisions, and lax oversight of coal operators by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).
Key among the report’s findings is that despite improved data collection requirements and strong state constitutional and regulatory safeguards, the PADEP has failed to adequately evaluate and protect against threats to valuable Pennsylvania streams and watersheds adversely affected by the longwall “full extraction” method of coal mining. As a result, exceptional value and high quality streams are being lost to longwall mining.
Stephen P. Kunz, co-author with James A. Schmid of the consulting firm Schmid & Company, said:
Water resource protection is not happening because the regulations are not being applied and the laws are not being enforced.