Why Mountain Top Removal Should be Banned

February 18, 2010
By daviddddp1 BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
daviddddp1 BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

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Picture the perfect escape. For many people, this escape carries them far off to the mountains where the air is crisp, fresh, and pure, where the sounds of nature block out the universe, and where total peace and tranquility is felt. Now picture an earth-shattering explosion with a screaming echo audible for miles followed by the sounds of heavy industrial machinery crushing, crunching, and snapping everything in his path. Your good sense will tell you these scenes do not seem to fit well together. The reason why is because they don’t. For many people, this is not a far escape to imagine: this is reality. Many coal mining companies are increasingly using the method of mountain top removal to mine coal. This method takes the topsoil and vegetation off, then millions of pounds of explosives are used and take hundreds of feet are taken off of the site, and the portion of the mountain that was blown off is taken to fill adjoining valleys. Mountain top removal should be banned because it ruins the environment and harms the people in the area.
To begin, this is an issue of great importance because it is effecting both people living in the Appalachian Mountains, but also the animals and plant life. This practice denounces the value of human life, which puts it into jeopardy. Judy Bonds, the outreach director for Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW), says, “I know people who sleep in their street clothes at night because they've been through flooding and worry about having to run again in the middle of the night." Not only do these people live in fear of flooding, mudslides, and losing their homes, health risks are also a major concern. According to scientists’ writings in Science Magazine, “the pollutants can cause heart attacks, strokes, cancers, respiratory ailments, birth defects and asthma, and take nearly 25,000 lives a year.” It is absolutely appalling that this injustice and lack of protection for American citizens exists in our country. We must help our neighbors and care for our environment, and this clearly goes against must be stopped.
Aside from being morally offensive, this practice is also inefficient and one of the dirtiest ways of acquiring energy. James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist says coal is "the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet." He refers to coal plants as "death factories." Coal is one of the biggest sources of pollution in the United States. These coal mining companies’ power plant’s, which often practice mountain top removal, cause 24,000 premature deaths, 38,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital admissions, and an additional 550,000 asthma attacks yearly, according to the American Lung Association. Humans aren’t the only ones affected by mountain top removal: this is plaguing some of the world’s most diverse population of plant and animal life. There are many fish, bird, and plant species that are indigenous to the Appalachian region. Again, this issue is more than morally disturbing; it’s wasteful and inefficient.
Though some may say this is the cheapest way to acquire energy and that regulations are firmer now, it’s not and they’re not. Many of these companies say that these factories are cost-effective and create jobs in areas of poverty. This is not the case whatsoever. Specifically, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) is a company that has opted to invest in clean energy (purchase of a wind farm in Pennsylvania). This company also has plans to open a coal plant, which is said to cost four billion dollars. This, overall, would be a waste compared to investing in clean energy, because according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, investing in clean energy is “twice as energy efficient and would eliminate the need for almost 300 power plants per year by 2030 and save consumers billions in energy costs.” The Council also states, “investments in clean energy create four times as many jobs as investments in traditional fuels”, which in turn makes the 4 billion dollar coal plant costly and doesn’t contribute to job growth in poverty-stricken areas. Also, these so-called restrictions are not being enforced and the ones that are in place only act as something for these companies to work around. Community groups say, “the Office of Surface Mining has used, and has allowed the states to use, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act [SMCRA] as a perverse tool to justify the very harm that Congress sought to prevent.” Joe Lovett, director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment said, "the members of Congress who voted to pass the Act in 1977 could not have imagined the cumulative destruction that would be visited on our region by the complete failure of the regulators to enforce the act." Another interesting fact is the result of a survey MIT researchers conducted. Their findings indicated public willingness to pay for solutions to climate change through higher electricity bills rose by 50 percent between 2003 and 2006. Though some of these points coal companies try to make seem valid, all are just simply fallacies that are far from the actuality.
We need to take a stance against mountain top removal. We cant let these greedy, heartless companies ruin human life and the environment. Legislation needs to be put into place and enforced as soon as possible to ensure the safety of humankind and wildlife.

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