Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reader: Mountaintop removal is why we need windmills

A reader argues that the mountaintop removal method of mining coal for power plants is one key reason why North Carolina needs commercial wind farms. I don't know of any coal mined in North Carolina by this method, but I do know that N.C. utilities buy a lot of coal mined this way in other states, so there is a clear connection. Here's what Roberta Dees of Charlotte has to say:

Concerning Jack Betts' column of July 19:

Why would anyone want windmills on top of our mountains? Because they would make electricity that would enable us to keep our mountains, instead of having them blown away.

Please take a look at

Look at any of their videos to watch mountain tops being blasted away with dynamite, and to see what the scene looks like afterward. So far over 500 Appalachian mountaintops have been blown away.

After the coal has been removed, the dirt and debris is dumped over the side -- into the valleys -- into creeks and streams. So far, 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams have been buried under mining waste.

Take a look at What's My Connection? to see how we are involved.

Now look at Coal River Mountain to see how residents have sacrificed and worked to get an alternative to having their mountain blasted away. How they have figured out to make a wind farm on top of their mountain. Ask them which view they would prefer to look at.

Coal River Wind

For decades, mountaintop removal and valley fills have had a devastating impact on local communities, the economy, and our environment. How will history look at this period in American history?

Roberta L Dees

Also, my colleague, Observer editorial cartoonist Kevin Siers, ran across this blogpost on wind farms and North Carolina's energy bite. It's worth a look.


Anonymous said...

Windmills will never replace coal as a source of power, and the requirement for cleaner burning coal is driving the mountaintop removal that is the only method to get to low sulphur coal. No man, or decision, is an island--they cause ripples and unintended results.

Increased demand for coal in the United States, sparked by the 1973 and 1979 petroleum crises, created incentives for a more economical form of coal mining than the traditional underground mining methods involving hundreds of workers, triggering the first widespread use of MTR. Its prevalence expanded further in the 1990s to retrieve relatively low-sulfur coal, a cleaner-burning form, which became desirable as a result of amendments to the U.S. Clean Air Act that tightened emissions limits on high-sulfur coal processing.[4] With an increasing call for energy independence in the U.S., as well as a growing call for Coal-To-Liquids and "clean coal technologies", MTR has continued to expand into the 2000s.
Critics contend that MTR is a destructive and unsustainable practice that benefits a small number of corporations at the expense of local communities and the environment. Though the main issue has been over the physical alteration of the landscape, opponents to the practice have also criticized MTR for the damage done to the environment by massive transport trucks, and the environmental damage done by the burning of coal for power. Blasting at MTR sites can also expels fly-rock into the air, which can disturb or settle onto private property nearby.
Advocates of MTR claim that once the areas are reclaimed as mandated by law, the area provides flat land suitable for many uses in a region where flat land is at a premium. They also maintain that the new growth on reclaimed mountaintop mined areas is better suited to support populations of game animals.[28] Many thin seams of coal can only be recovered by MTR mining as they are to small for man and machines to enter by underground mining methods. Critics are quick to show photographs of active mine sites but then rarely show the same area after mining and reclamation has been completed. They claim that because flat land is worth more than steep rocky mountain side, land value increases after completion of MTR for the local land owners. These mines employ many local residents and pay some of the highest wages in the region for equipment operators.

I_love_green! said...

The mountains were around before the coal industries, and now we can harness electricity through the sun and wind. What's so bad about people wanting to preserve the mountain scenery for future generations? Is it OK for us to enjoy the beauty, destroy it through business ventures that care nothing about nature, and leave a scarred legacy for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to regret? Get rid of the mountaintop operations, save workers' health and lives, and help the Earth stay pretty for next 100 years. Windmills are friendly to the environment and a lot more beautiful than scraped and blown-up soil! Look at the ones in the Netherlands, some have been around for centuries, and they still captivate people's attention. If Teddy Roosevelt did not have the foresight to help create a National Park system more than a century ago, we probably would have lost a lot of the beauty and the wildlife. Because of this, we are thankful that he had the intelligence to look beyond the present and into the future. We cannot afford not to do the same kind of thoughtful planning today.

Anonymous said...

Do your homework please. Wind and solar power generation at the moment only supplements the power grid. Their output is spotty and undependable over most of the nation. You want more "clean" power, the trully pursue nuclear - fission & fusion - power generation. Or maybe a form of hydrogen fired plants near the coasts. Also, envirnmental fallout from windmills have to be taken into account as well. They are devastating on wildlife.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Jack. People need to understand that this issue isn't about Triangle activists wanting to "despoil" the beauty of the mountains, it's about saving mountains and cutting down on pollution.


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