Mountaintop removal coal mining turns lush, forested Appalachian mountains into barren, unstable moonscapes. Coal companies are supposed to repair damaged land and water soon after the area is disturbed to help limit harm to people, wildlife and waterways. But many companies are failing to clean up after themselves, putting nearby communities at risk.
More than 633,000 acres need to be cleaned up at current mines in the East. But state and federal authorities aren’t using the tools available to them to hold coal companies accountable, which is dragging out the process and leaving people in danger of landslides, increased flood damage and other problems.
The process of restabilizing mined lands, planting vegetation, fixing safety hazards and repairing water pollution is known as mine reclamation. Coal companies are required by law to reclaim their mines in a timely manner, and before coal companies can get a mining permit, they must post bonds to fund cleanup in case they go bankrupt. But the reclamation law is often not enforced as Congress intended, and the monetary bonds that coal companies post are often too low to cover the actual costs of reclamation.