New Study Exposes the Staggering Environmental Cost of Mountaintop Removal Coal

Posted Oct. 9, 2013

Interview with Brian Lutz, assistant professor of biogeochemistry at Kent State University, conducted by Melinda Tuhus

MTR

Until now, the environmental costs attributed to mining or drilling for different forms of energy – especially fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal – have not been included in the price of these energy resources. These costs are what are called "externalities," and until they are added into the price, this is one of several ways that fossil fuels have an unfair advantage over renewable energy sources

Coal production from mountaintop removal mining is especially destructive, as it destroys Appalachian ridges and buries streams under tons of rocks and dirt. The mining method causes tremendous air pollution and has been implicated in drinking water contamination and negative consequences for human health. In September, researchers released the first data comparing environmental damage from mountaintop removal mining to the amount of energy produced across the central Appalachian region.

The report, titled “The Environmental Price Tag on a Ton of Mountaintop Removal Coal,” concludes that “the extent of environmental impacts of these surface mining practices is staggering, particularly in terms of the amount of coal that is produced. Tremendous environmental capital is being spent,” the report maintains, “to achieve what are only modest energy gains.” Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus spoke with Brian Lutz, assistant professor of biogeochemistry at Kent State University, lead author of the study, who summarizes his findings.

The report titled, “The Environmental Price Tag on a Ton of Mountaintop Removal Coal” can be found at PLOS ONE, an open access, peer reviewed scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science.

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