Front Porch Blog

Blowing Up Mountains for Coal- Costly and Unsustainable

NOTE: The following Letter to the Editor appeared in The Mountain Times in the November 4, 2010 issue.

Dear Editor,
A mountains of thanks to The Mountain Times for coverage of one of the most important issues affecting our Appalachian mountains—mountaintop removal coal mining—in your October 28 article about Trees on Fire.

Mountaintop removal has already destroyed over 500 Appalachian mountains, devastating an expanse of more than 1.2 million acres. The rubble created from blasting mountaintops is dumped directly into the adjacent river valleys, burying streams and poisoning the drinking water of local residents.

While North Carolina’s majestic mountains do not contain coal, we are each directly connected to the issue, and to the people of Appalachia, through our use of electricity – some of which is produced with mountaintop removal mined coal.

According to your article, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation (BREMCO) and Duke Energy, BREMCO’s supplier, claim that “the price difference between mountaintop removed coal and traditionally mined coal is what keeps them using the product.”

We here in North Carolina love our mountains and residents are adamantly opposed to receiving their electricity from a practice responsible for destroying mountains and devastating the physical health of Appalachian people. Our mountains and neighbors are worth more that that.

The most amazing aspect of Duke Energy’s argument is that what they claim simply isn’t true. When it comes to burning underground coal or mountaintop removal coal, the cost per kilowatt is typically no different, and in many cases we pay more for mountaintop removal mined coal. The Energy Information Agency showed that, in 2008 (the latest numbers available), North Carolina paid more for strip-mined coal than for underground-mined coal.

When Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers spoke at ASU last month, he said his company’s ultimate mission in the 21st Century was to “build a company based on the predication of sustainability.” If that is truly the case, Duke Energy needs to firmly and immediately denounce mountaintop removal coal mining, refuse to purchase coal obtained by this method and implement ethical standards for purchasing electricity.

Blowing up our Appalachian mountains for coal isn’t sustainable, it isn’t clean and it certainly isn’t cheap.

Sandra Diaz
Director of Development and Communications
Appalachian Voices

With Colombian roots, a Philadelphia, Pa.-childhood, and more than a decade in Florida before joining Appalachian Voices, Sandra served as AV's North Carolina campaign coordinator and driving force behind the Red, White & Water campaign from 2007 to 2013.


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