The Info List - Environmental Justice And Coal Mining In Appalachia

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Environmental justice and coal mining in Appalachia is the study of environmental justice – the interdisciplinary body of social science literature studying theories of the environment and justice; environmental laws, policies, and their implementations and enforcement; development and sustainability; and political ecology – in relation to Coal mining in Appalachia. The Appalachian region of the Southeastern United States is a leading producer of coal in the country.[1] Research shows that people who live in close proximity to mountaintop removal (MTR) mines have higher mortality rates than average, and are more likely to live in poverty be exposed to harmful environmental conditions than people in otherwise comparable parts of the region.[1] In the late 1990s, several Appalachian women, including Julia Bonds, began to speak out against MTR and its effects on the people and environment of mining communities. Research has shown that MTR is causing "irreparable" environmental damage in Appalachia. The blasting of mountaintops has polluted stream and water supplies have been contaminated by toxic waste from coal processing called slurry ponds. Scientists have noted an increase in respiratory and heart problems among area residents, including lung cancer. Mortality rates and birth defect rates are higher in the areas surrounding surface mining locations.[2] Coal mining production in Appalachia declined from 1990 to 2015, but there is some debate over why. Cited factors include a rising demand for clean energy, environmental policies and regulations set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and globalization.[3] The number of coal mining jobs in the region remained steady from 2000 to 2010, but declined by 37% between 2011 and 2015.[3] Less production is responsible for much of this job loss, but improved mining techniques like mountain-top removal also contributed.[3] Discourse around coal in the area has sparked a debate in academia over whether it creates wealth or poverty. The core debate centers around coal production’s impact on local and national economy.


1 Background

1.1 Coal production 1.2 History

2 Impacts of coal mining in Appalachia

2.1 Surface mining 2.2 Effects on health 2.3 Environmental impacts 2.4 Social and economic impacts 2.5 Specific events

2.5.1 Buffalo Creek Disaster

3 Law and regulation

3.1 The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977

4 Advocacy groups

4.1 Save Our Cumberland Mountains 4.2 Mountain Justice

5 See also 6 References

Background[edit] Further information: Coal mining in the United States Coal production[edit] Appalachia is one of three coal-mining regions in the United States; the others are the Interior coal region, and the Western coal region, which includes the Powder River Basin. Eight states lie in the Appalachian coal region: Alabama, eastern Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.[4] West Virginia is the largest coal-producing state in Appalachia, and the second-largest coal-producing state in the United States, accounting for about 11% of the nation's total coal production in 2014 (the largest coal-producing state is Wyoming, which lies in the Western coal region and accounts for 40% of U.S. coal production).[4] Two other states in the Appalachian coal region, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, account for 8% and 6% of U.S. coal production, respectively.[4] The coal industry in Appalachia has changed over time. According to U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration data, Central Appalachia—consisting of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, western Virginia, and eastern Tennessee—made up almost 29% of U.S. coal production in the U.S. in 1990, but only about 13% by 2013.[5] By contrast, coal production in Northern Appalachian has remained relatively stable, going from 16% in 1990 to 12.5% in 2013.[5] As a result, "both regions account for nearly the same share of U.S. coal production" as of 2014.[5] In the Appalachian coal region, 72% of coal produced came from underground mines. This is a much higher percentage than in the Western coal region, where 90% of all coal produced comes from surface mines.[4] History[edit] See also: West Virginia coal wars Historically, "the building of coal towns began in the 1880s, peaked in the 1920s, and virtually ended with the coming of the Great Depression" when the availability of other forms of energy—namely, oil, gas, and hydroelectricity—reduced demand for coal.[6] The company town was particularly dominant in southern Appalachia; in 1925, almost 80% of West Virginia coal miners lived in company towns, while an average of 64.4% of coal miners in Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee lived in company towns.[7] Impacts of coal mining in Appalachia[edit]

Strip mining in Barnesville, Ohio

Since 1995, the Appalachian region has produced about half of the United States' coal.[8] Although Appalachia has played a large role in contributing to the coal supply of the United States, the communities surrounding such mining practices have suffered immensely.[8] Several studies have shown disparities between mining communities and non-mining communities in terms of public health, environmental degradation, pollution, and overall quality of life in Appalachia.[1][9][10][11] Variations of surface coal mining techniques in the Appalachia include contour, area, high-wall, auger, and mountaintop removal mining (MTR).[10] Surface mining[edit] The damage caused by mountaintop removal strip mining has had a calculable effect on the environment and communities in Appalachia. The resource rich region remains economically deprived and suffers from the externalities of coal mining, including the health problems caused by coal pollution.[12] The Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is the federal agency tasked with regulating strip-mining under the Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). According to OSM, "[t]o the extent that low income populations are prevalent in the coalfields, the impacts of mountaintop mining are felt disproportionately by these environmental justice populations".[13] Most local residents are unable to see the extent of the damage that has been caused by surface mining. Geologist Sean P. Bemis investigated claims by local residents that the extent of the damage was not easily visible. In interviews with the research team, former miner Chuck Nelson stated that the extent of the destruction is only clearly visible from a plane. Coalfield resident activist Maria Gunnoe gave a similar account to the researchers, saying "I never realized it was so bad. My first fly-over with South Wings [non-profit aviation organization], and that right there is what really fired me up. When I got off the plane that day, I cried all the way across the tarmac, all the way home..." The Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed this in a 2009 report:

Despite the public scrutiny that surface mining in mountainous areas has received, the public is limited in its ability to access information on the scope of these operations - their size, location, and how long they have been in operation - and on what the mountain can be expected to look like after mining operations have ceased and the land has been reclaimed — Government Accountability Office (GAO), as quoted in Fighting King Coal[14]

There are no official records of the total number of "disturbed acres" that have resulted from surface mining, but geospatial analysis has shown that between 1.05million and 1.28million acres of land and more than 500 mountains in West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia have been surface mined.[15] Effects on health[edit] Several studies have found that communities within the Appalachian region surrounding coal mining practices disproportionately experience negative health effects than communities with no coal mining.[1][16][8][9] Such health disparities are largely attributed to the contamination of water and land associated with coal surface mining.[17] MTR has increased salinity, metals, magnesium, and sulfates within Appalachian watersheds, threatening human health.[11] Sixty-three percent of stream beds near coalfields within the Appalachia mountains have been identified as "impaired" due to high toxic chemical and metal contamination.[10] In West Virginia, 14 counties are experiencing water that exceeds safe drinking water standards by seven times more than non-mining counties.[17] Combustion waste and fly ash from MTR lend to toxic dusts pollute the surrounding air and have contributed to increased levels of cancer, cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and kidney disease.[11][9][1] Public health costs of pollution in the Appalachia are upwards of 75 billion dollars a year.[8] In a comparative analysis of health-related quality of residences in counties with and without coal mining Appalachia "reported significantly fewer healthy days for both physical and mental health".[9] The same study highlights strong correlations between heavy coal mining counties and a greater risk of depression and severe psychological distress.[9] Areas in the Appalachia with coal surface mining exhibit greater rates of adverse health effects and reduced self-rated health in comparison to the national average.[1] In addition, studies from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have concluded a high "relationship between surface coal mining jobs and the prevalence of pneumoconiosis".[16] Lastly, through examination of mortality rates, county-level poverty rates, and coal mining within counties of the Appalachia, it was identified that coal mining areas of Appalachia experienced higher mortality rates then counties with no coal mining.[1] Environmental impacts[edit]

Mountaintop removal coal mining in Martin County, Kentucky

Coal surface mining has heavily altered the hydrological cycle and landscape of the Appalachia causing environmental degradation and contributing to ecosystem damages beyond repair.[11] Surface coal mining in the Appalachian has contributed to the destruction of over 500 mountain tops.[18] In addition, it has led to the clearance of over 1 million acres of forests and contributed to the degradation or permanent loss of over 12000 miles of streams crucial to the Appalachia watershed from 1985- 2001.[19] Increased salinity and metal contamination of the Appalachian streams have led to toxic effects of fish and bird species.[10] Mountaintop removal, or MTR, is a type of surface mining that has played a major role in negatively impacting the Appalachian environment.[10] When MTR is used, it causes much of the contaminants from the process to be emptied into surrounding valleys which, oftentimes, make their way into nearby streams.[20] These wastes are disposed in "valley fills" which have collapsed and produced heavy flash floods in Appalachia.[19][21] The Environmental Protection Agency approximates that between 1985 and 2001, over 700 miles worth of streams in the Appalachians were covered by these "valley fills" due to mountaintop removal coal mining.[22] Social and economic impacts[edit] Appalachia has historically been one of the most impoverished regions of the country.[1] There is a debate about whether coal production is a source of wealth or poverty in Appalachia. The U.S. geological survey and the U.S. bureau of mines states that there is a coal-wealth paradox in Appalachia. Appalachia is home to some of the largest coal mines yet the average per capita income is only about 68% of the national per capita income.[23] However, work done by Black and Sanders shows that between 1970 and 1980 the increase in coal production substantially boosted the pay of low skilled workers in Appalachia and likely caused a decrease in income inequality.[24] Although coal mining industries are often associated with increased jobs and economic growth, this association does not hold for Appalachia, where two-thirds of the counties have higher levels of unemployment than the nation and per capita personal wages falling 20% lower than the nation.[1][25] More specifically, in Hendryx and Zullig's comparative analysis of Appalachia counties, those with coal mining had greater economic disparities and more poverty than those without industry.[9] The shift towards coal surface mining from underground mining led to a 50% decline in mining jobs from 1985 to 2005, and competition from cheap natural gas also decreased demand for coal, leading some mines to close or reduce extraction, which further increased unemployment.[1] From 2014 to 2015, overall mining employment for Appalachia has dropped by 15.9%.[26] A NASA study states that promises of beneficial post-mining development in the Appalachian region have yet to materialize.[19] A 2017 study found that neighborhoods closest to coal impoundments are "slightly more likely to have higher rates of poverty and unemployment, even after controlling for rurality, mining-related variables, and spatial dependence".[21] Specific events[edit] Buffalo Creek Disaster[edit] Main article: Buffalo Creek Flood In 1972, a slurry pond built by Pittson Coal Company collapsed. In what is known as the Buffalo Creek disaster 130 million gallons of sludge flooded Buffalo Creek. More recently, a waste impoundment owned by Massey burst in Kentucky, flooding nearby streams with 250 tons of coal slurry.[27] Law and regulation[edit] The 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) created two programs: one for regulating active coal mines and a second for reclaiming abandoned mine lands. In the view of Jedediah Purdy, The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act improved the quality of air and water for much of America, but created "sacrificial zones" in America, including coal mining communities in Appalachia, that hid the environmental effects of industry and agriculture from people in suburbs but increased exposure to danger for people who lived near sites of pollution.[28]:182 These laws, along with the National Environmental Policy Act form the basis in law for regulation of coal mining, including mountaintop removal mining.[29] Regulations issued on the basis of these laws focus on issuing or withholding permits for new mining operations; the regulations themselves have been contested.[29] As of 2012, these laws did not take into account direct effects on communities near mines nor economic or racial disparities in those communities, and regulations and executive orders issued that attempted to address such environmental justice concerns had been struck down, and legal challenges based on potential effects on local communities generally failed, since neither the law nor regulations were written to address these concerns and judges ruled based on what the law and regulations actually said.[29] The Affordable Care Act is a federal government health care law; it includes provisions that amend the Black Lung Benefits program.[30] The Black Lung Benefits program details the extent to which coal miners have their medical coverage compensated by the federal government.[31] The ACA provisions that amend the Black Lung Benefits program are commonly known as the Byrd Amendments taking its name from the late West Virginia Congressman Robert Byrd. The Byrd Amendments are found in Section 1556 of the ACA.[32] Among the many protections the Byrd Amendments provides coal miners, it covers medical expenses for coal miners who worked at least 15 years underground (or comparable surface mining) and who have a totally disabling respiratory impairment. Further, it shifts the burden of proof of disability due to "black lung disease" from these coal miners back to the coal companies. Pneumoconiosis or "black lung disease" can be a common health problem faced by retired coal miners.[33] The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977[edit] Main article: Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 Early attempts to regulate strip-mining on the state level were largely unsuccessful due to lax enforcement. The Appalachian Group to Save the Land and the People was founded in 1965 to stop surface mining. In 1968, Congress held the first hearings on strip mining. Ken Hechler introduced the first strip-mining abolition bill in Congress in 1971. Though this bill was not passed, provisions establishing a process to reclaim abandoned strip mines and allowing citizens to sue regulatory agencies became parts of SMCRA.[34] SMCRA also created the Office of Surface Mining, an agency within the Department of the Interior, to promulgate regulations, to fund state regulatory and reclamation efforts, and to ensure consistency among state regulatory programs.[35] Advocacy groups[edit] The study of justice has often been defined by the theories of John Rawls. Justice theory has focused on the principles by the which to distribute goods in a society. The defining arguments of the environmental justice movement were about patterns that violated some of these distributive principles of justice theory. Several contemporary scholars have developed theories of justice that are broader then the distributional theory of justice.[36] The study of justice theory, as applied to the environmental justice, has primarily focused on "maldistribution". In other words, this area of study has concentrated on the fact that poor communities, indigenous communities and communities of color are often disproportionately impacted by environmentally-related negative externalities and receive less environmental protection.[36] Environmental justice has been identified by scholars as a movement that acknowledged the disproportionate effects of environmental damage and toxic contamination on the poor and people of color. It has also been noted that the race and class of the parties effects the community's chances of success in enacting reforms. Environmental justice groups were community grassroots organizations that combined environmentalism with issues of race a class equality.[37] These groups organized in opposition to the disproportionate threat mountain communities faced from health hazards like acid mine drainage.[38] Save Our Cumberland Mountains[edit] Save Our Cumberland Mountains (SOCM, pronounced "sock 'em") was founded when thirteen residents of the Tennessee coalfields petitioned their state government to make coal landholders pay a fair share of taxes. SOCM later grew into one of most significant community organizations in the region and went on to lead a major legislative campaign against employers who replaced their permanent employees with long-term temporary workers.[39] J.W. Bradley was the president of SOCM for its first five years. He had worked in the deep mines and was outspoken about what he called the "evils of strip mining." He believed in using litigation to pursue reform. In 1974, SOCM established the East Tennessee Research Corporation as a public interest law firm. By 1976, SOCM was trying to ban strip mining and targeting individual strip mining operations.[40] An attorney who worked with SOCM in the 1970s has written that very few people of color were involved with SOCM in the early years. He highlights the importance of regional organizations like the Highlander Research and Education Center that "seek to bring together diverse communities to share their knowledge about the inner dynamics of environmental justice issues".[41] Mountain Justice[edit] Mountain Justice began in 2005 as a summer-long campaign for the abolition of MTM.[42] The organization was started after a 2004 mining accident in Virginia. A three year old was killed when a boulder rolled off a MTM site above his home.[42] The first MJ meeting took place in Knoxville, Tennessee and included activists from Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW), the Sierra Club, Appalachian Voices, and Katuah Earth First (KEF!). Their mission statement includes a commitment to non-violence.[42] See also[edit]

Environmental issues in Appalachia Environmental justice Hobet Coal Mine Mountaintop removal mining Social and economic stratification in Appalachia Stream Protection Rule


^ a b c d e f g h i j Hendryx, Michael (Spring 2011). "Poverty and Mortality Disparities in Central Appalachia: Mountaintop Mining and Environmental Justice". Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice. 4 (4): 44–53.  ^ Barry, Joyrce (2012). Standing Our Ground. Ohio: Ohio University Press. pp. 2–5.  ^ a b c Hodge, Dan (March 2016). "Appalachian Coal Industry, Power Generation and Supply Chain" (PDF). Appalachian Regional Commission.  ^ a b c d Where the United States gets its coal, U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (last updated April 21, 2017). ^ a b c Ted Boettner, 7 Things You Need to Know About Why Coal is Declining in West Virginia (1 of 7), West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy (October 23, 2014). ^ Crandall A. Shifflett, Coal Towns: Life, Work, and Culture in Company Towns of Southern Appalachia (University of Tennessee, 1991), p. 33. ^ Shifflett, pp. 34-34. ^ a b c d Epstein, PR; Buonocore, JJ; Eckerle, K; Hendryx, M; Stout Iii, BM; Heinberg, R; Clapp, RW; May, B; Reinhart, NL; Ahern, MM; Doshi, SK; Glustrom, L (February 2011). "Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal" (PDF). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1219: 73–98. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05890.x. PMID 21332493.  ^ a b c d e f Zullig, KJ; Hendryx, M (2010). "A comparative analysis of health-related quality of life for residents of U.S. counties with and without coal mining". Public Health Reports. 125 (4): 548–55. doi:10.1177/003335491012500410 (inactive 2017-04-22). PMC 2882606 . PMID 20597455.  ^ a b c d e "Basic Information about Surface Coal Mining in Appalachia". US EPA. Retrieved 2017-03-18.  ^ a b c d Lindberg, TT; Bernhardt, ES; Bier, R; Helton, AM; Merola, RB; Vengosh, A; Di Giulio, RT (27 December 2011). "Cumulative impacts of mountaintop mining on an Appalachian watershed". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 108 (52): 20929–34. doi:10.1073/pnas.1112381108. PMC 3248525 . PMID 22160676.  ^ Rivkin, Dean Hill; Irwin, Chris (2009). "Strip-Mining and Grassroots Resistance in Appalachia: Community Lawyering for Environmental Justice". Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal. 2 (1): 159–162. Retrieved 23 April 2017. (Registration required (help)).  ^ Rivkin, Dean Hill; Irwin, Chris (2009). "Strip-Mining and Grassroots Resistance in Appalachia: Community Lawyering for Environmental Justice". Los Angeles Public Interest Law Journal. 2 (1): 163–164. Retrieved 23 April 2017. (Registration required (help)).  ^ Bell, Shannon Elizabeth; Bemis, Sean P. (2016). Fighting King Coal: The Challenged to Micromobilization in Central Appalachia. The MIT Press. p. 111. ISBN 9780262034340.  ^ Bell, Shannon Elizabeth; Bemis, Sean P. (2016). Fighting King Coal: The Challenged to Micromobilization in Central Appalachia. The MIT Press. p. 109. ISBN 9780262034340. JSTOR j.ctt1b4cxhf.10.  ^ a b National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (April 2011). "Coal Mine Dust Exposures and Associated Health Outcomes" (PDF). Current Intelligence Bulletin (64).  ^ a b Cappiello, Dina; Borenstein, Seth (January 18, 2014). "West Virginia Chemical Spill Exposes a New Risk to Water From Coal". The Weather Channel.  ^ Holzman, David (November 2011). "Mountaintop Removal Mining: Digging into Community Health Concerns" (PDF). Environmental Health Perspectives. 119: A477 – A509.  ^ a b c Rebecca, Lindsey (2007-12-21). "Coal Controversy In Appalachia : Feature Articles". NASA Earth Observatory.  ^ Holzman, DC (November 2011). "Mountaintop removal mining: digging into community health concerns". Environmental Health Perspectives. 119 (11): A476–83. PMC 3226519 . PMID 22171378.  ^ a b Greenberg, Pierce (March 2017). "Disproportionality and Resource-Based Environmental Inequality: An Analysis of Neighborhood Proximity to Coal Impoundments in Appalachia". Rural Sociology. 82 (1): 149–178. doi:10.1111/ruso.12119.  ^ House, Silas; Smith, Jason Howard ; foreword by Lee (2009). Something's rising Appalachians fighting mountaintop removal. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-8131-3904-3.  ^ Geological Survey Professional Paper. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1968-01-01.  ^ "Demographic and Socioeconomic Change in Appalachia". citeseerx.ist.psu.edu. Retrieved 2017-04-23.  ^ "Socioeconomic Overview of the Appalachian Region". www.arc.gov/. 2009. Retrieved April 22, 2017.  ^ "Annual Coal Report 2015" (PDF). www.eia.gov. November 2016. Retrieved April 22, 2017.  ^ Thomas, Erin Ann (2012). Coal in our Veins: A Personal Journey. University Press of Colorado. p. 168. JSTOR j.ctt4cgrkb.20.  ^ Purdy, Jebediah (2011). "Afterwards: An American Sacrifice Zone". In Morrone, Michele; Buckley, Geoffrey L. Mountains of injustice social and environmental justice in Appalachia (Electronic ed.). Ohio University Press. ISBN 9780821444283.  ^ a b c Smith, Evan Barret (Fall 2012). "Implementing Environmental Justice in Appalachia: The Social and Cultural Context of Mountaintop Removal Mining as Seen Through The Lenses of Law and Documentaries" (PDF). William & Mary Policy Review. 4 (1): 170.  ^ Carey, Maeve. "Upcoming Rules Pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Spring 2013 Unified Agenda" (PDF). Congressional Research Service.  ^ "U.S. Department of Labor - Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP) - Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation (DCMWC) - About DCMWC". www.dol.gov. Retrieved 2017-04-23.  ^ "BLACK LUNG BENEFITS IMPROVEMENT ACT OF 2015 SECTION-BY-SECTION SUMMARY" (PDF). U.S. House of Representatives.  ^ "Pneumoconiosis". American Lung Association. Retrieved 2017-04-23.  ^ Loeb, Penny (2015). Moving Mountains. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 54–55. ISBN 9780813156569.  ^ "About OSMRE - Who We Are". www.osmre.gov. December 15, 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2017.  ^ a b Schlosberg, David (2007). Defining Environmental Justice: Theories, Movements, and Nature. London: Oxford Scholarship Online. ISBN 9780199286294.  ^ Ferguson, Cody (2015). This is Our Land. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. p. 140. ISBN 9780813565644.  ^ Eller, Ronald D. (2008). Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945. University Press of Kentucky. p. 255. JSTOR j.ctt2jctgr.12.  ^ Fisher, Stephen (2009). Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 85. ISBN 9781439901571.  ^ Fisher, Stephen (2009). Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 87. ISBN 9781439901571.  ^ Rivkin, Dean Hill (1993). "Doing Environmental Justice in Appalachia: Lawyers at the Grassroots and the Aspiration of Social Change". West Virginia Law Review. 96 (4): 1115–1116. Retrieved 23 April 2017. (Registration required (help)).  ^ a b c It has since grown into an activist network that spans rural coalfields, college campuses and urban activists. Pfleger, Cassie Robinston (2012). Transforming Places. University of Illinois Press. pp.