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Eastern-->Southern Appalachia

Southern Appalachia


Drill into subregion of southern appalachia:

The Eastern coal mining region of the United States is divided by the Energy Information Administration into three sub groupings as Northern, Central, and Southern.  Southern Appalachia is defined as Alabama and the southeastern counties of Tennessee.

Alabama coal mines produced 20.6 million tons of coal in 2008 (1.8% of the U.S. total), making Alabama the 15th-biggest coal-producing state in the country.  Alabama employed 4,195 coal miners in 2006, of whom 61% were unionized.  There are large bituminous coal deposits in the northwest of the state, most of which is good enough quality to be useful for coke to make steel.  There are also lignite deposits along the coastal plain, though none are mined at present. 

Alabama’s five largest coal mines by production are all underground mines, though there is a larger number of surface mines than underground mines.  The Blue Creek Mine #5 is the deepest vertical shaft underground mine in the world, reaching 2000 feet at its deepest point.

With 2.7 million tons of coal mined in 2008, Tennessee is one of the lesser coal mining states, making up only 0.2% of U.S. coal production. While coal mining is relatively unimportant in Tennessee today, the state was once one of the largest coal producers in the United States.  All of its coal is bituminous and most of the beds in production average only 3 to 4 feet in thickness. Production peaked in the mid 1970s at about 11 million tons, and has dropped sharply since the early 1980s.  In 2006, coal mines employed 643 people, all of which were non-union.  

Find out more information about

Shepherd Bend Mine, Alabama

The Shepherd Bend Mine is a proposed surface mine on the Mulberry Fork of Warrior River. The current proposal is for a first-phase 286 acre mine, with the mine eventually growing to 1773 acres. Shepherd Bend LLC is owned by the Drummond coal family.

The mine has met with significant opposition because of concerns over water pollution including from the Birmingham Water Works Board. The mine is across the river from a major intake for the Birmingham Water Works, and the mine’s proposed discharge point is within 800′ of the intake. Black Warrior Riverkeeper has also expressed concern about a pattern of water quality violations in other mines operated by the same people.

The mine has already obtained a wastewater discharge permit for the entire 1773 acre mining site; this permit is currently being challenged in court by Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Southern Environmental Law Center. The land to be mined is owned by the University of Alabama system, and the lease to mine has not been granted at this time.

  • Photos from North River Coal Slurry Spill

    On July 15, 2011, Walter Energy’s North River Mine (an underground coal mine) spilled between 120,000 and 600,000 gallons (estimated by Alabama Surface Mining Commission) of coal slurry into an unnamed tributary of Freeman Creek, which flows into the North River.

    On July 26, 2011 Nelson Brooke, Black Warrior Riverkeeper, photographed the effects of the spill on the North River Mine and Lake Tuscaloosa

    See photos at /photos/north-river-mine-coal-slurry-spill

  • Shoal Creek Mine, Alabama

    A photoset by Kelly Michals of the Shoal Creek coal Mine, located near the central portion of the Warrior Coal Basin in Adger, Alabama. It is the largest coal mine in Alabama and one of the largest underground facilities in the country.

    See the full photoset at http://coaldiver.org/photos/shoal-creek-mine-alabama.

  • Cedrum Mine


    A photoset by Kelly Michals of the abandoned/reclaimed Cedrum coal Mine, located in Walker County, Alabama. This photoset concentrates primarily on the monster Bucyrus Erie 2570 “Ol Tobe II” walking dragline which is still on site. At the end is historical footage from the Library of Congress of the mine (and dragline) in operation.

    See the full photoset at http://coaldiver.org/photos/cedrum-mine.

Patriot Coal announces 360 possible layoffs at Boone County mining complex, Gov. Tomblin responds

September 9, 2014

Boone County, West Virginia may see more lay-offs, as 360 Patriot Coal Corporation employees were given WARN notices on September 9.  The potential layoffs result from market pressure from mild summer weather and low natural gas prices.  Patriot’s President, Bennet K. Hatfield, and West Virginia Governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, also cite to the new carbon dioxide rules released by the Environmental Protection Agency as impacting the company.

Read more at: http://www.wowktv.com/story/26487463/patriot-coal-plans-150-layoffs-at-boone-county-mine

In Victory for Obama, Court Backs Rules for Coal Pollution

April 29, 2014

The Supreme Court today upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to place regulations on pollution caused from coal-fired power plants that are emitted from 27 Midwestern and Appalachian states. This is a major victory in reducing power plant pollution and highlights a decade long battle by the EPA to find a way to limit smog pollution that has been plaguing the eastern seaboard.

This ruling will require coal power plants to reduce their smokestack pollution in an effort to clean up air quality for downwind states. The EPA stated that this ruling would prevent more than 30,000 premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of illness each year.

 Read article at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/30/us/politics/supreme-court-backs-epa-coal-pollution-rules.html?_r=1

Barclays and Citigroup Top Backers of U.S. Coal Industry’s Worst

April 17, 2014

Rainforest Action Group, BankTrack and the Sierra Club today released a report that Barclays and Citigroup are the top funders for dangerous coal practices. Barclays has been cited as the top funder of mountain top removal while Citigroup comes in as the top funder for power utilities that burn coal for electricity.

The report also highlighted that JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co. have significantly reduced the amount of funding for mountaintop removal. This is an improvement for JPMorgan which last year was cited as being one of the top funders of coal related projects.

 Read article at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2014-04-17/barclays-and-citigroup-top-backers-of-u-dot-s-dot-coal-industry-s-worst

Coal Untouched By April’s Bloom

April 13, 2014

Forbes discusses the challenges faced by the coal industry in dealing with regulatory and legal battles that are likely to curtail expansion. With the boom in the natural gas industry, coal companies are facing decreased demand and the need to retrofit their operations to meet the upcoming carbon limits or shut down.

Companies such as Consol Energy are selling coalmines  (5 by Consol) in order to become more active in the natural gas market. Additionally major players in the coal industry (American Electric, Duke, First Energy and Southern) are being forced to shut down coalmines because of natural gas competition, regulatory carbon limits and upcoming legal battles.

 Read article at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2014/04/13/coal-untouched-by-aprils-bloom/

Coal Firm to Pay Record Penalty and Spend Millions on Water Cleanup in 5 States

March 5, 2014

Alpha Natural Resources, and 66 of its subsidiaries have been fined $27.5 million, the largest civil penalty ever for violations of the Clean Water Act associated with over 6,000 coal related violations in five states ranging from 2006 to 2013. Additionally, Alpha will pay $200 million under a consent decree to alleviate pollution from their coalmines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Some people have regarded these penalties as not specific enough since these penalties do not address the fundamental problems of high pollution associated with the coal mining techniques such as mountain top removals in the Appalachians. Many would like to see that the E.P.A. stop issuing permits that coal companies simply are unable to comply with. The concern is that levying fines after the pollution occurs does not protect the communities and waterways that are already harmed.

 Read article at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/us/coal-firm-to-pay-record-penalty-and-spend-millions-on-water-cleanup-in-5-states.html?src=twrhp&_r=0

 

Officials: Unsafe levels of arsenic from Duke Energy coal ash dump pouring into river

February 18, 2014

Officials in North Carolina reported that high levels of arsenic are polluting groundwater flowing into the Dan River from a Duke Energy coal ash dump. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke Energy to halt the hazardous flow coming out of the coal ash dump. It is being reported that the water being released from the coal dump contains arsenic levels up to 14 times higher than what is safe for human contact.

This leakage of unacceptably high levels of arsenic is located in the same area of the Dan River where a massive spill occurred on February 2nd.  The Dan River contains two federally listed endangered species, the Roanoke logperch fish and the James spinymussel. The effects of coal ash are devastating for aquatic life, which clogs gill tissues and buries aquatic life and their access to food.

 Read article at http://www.cbsnews.com/news/officials-unsafe-levels-of-arsenic-from-duke-energy-coal-ash-dump-pouring-into-river/

 

BLM Could Enhance Appraisal Process, More Explicitly Consider Coal Exports, and Provide More Public Information

February 4, 2014

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released findings related to coal leasing and the need for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to enhance the appraisal process. GAO found that the BLM consistently failed to explain the rationale for accepting bids for coal leasing on federal land that at least initially were far below the actual fair market value presale estimates.

The report stated that the state offices of the BLM did not allow independent review of these leasing agreements with coal companies. Additionally, GAO cited that the BLM failed to take advantage of an independent third party appraisal within the Department of the Interior (Office of Valuation of Services).  Lastly, GAO was highly critical of the BLM’s failure to provide even limited information to the public on federal coal leasing.

 Read article at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-140

 See document at http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659801.pdf

New study examines mountaintop removal’s potential impact on mental health in Appalachia communities

October 22, 2013

Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University recently released a report that highlights the severe emotional toll that the coal industry’s practice of mountaintop removal takes on the people living where these extraction tactics take place.

The study released showed that of 8,591 adults living in Central Appalachia, 17% of respondents in mountaintop removal mining areas suffered from major depression. This was compared with 10% of respondents diagnosed with major depression in non-mining areas.

 Read article at http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2013/10/22/new-study-examines-mountaintop-removals-potential-impact-on-mental-health-in-appalachia-communities/

 See document at http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/eco.2013.0029

Many coal sludge impoundments have weak walls, federal study says

April 24, 2013

The Washington Post recently reported a study from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement that the majority of storage ponds for sludge associated with coal mining are fragile and are of substandard construction.

Out of 73 tests performed on the structural integrity of the walls holding the toxic sludge in the storage ponds, only 16 walls met the standards. This report highlights the potential dangers to both coal worker safety and the environment.

Read article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/many-coal-sludge-impoundments-have-weak-walls-federal-study-says/2013/04/24/76c5be2a-acf9-11e2-a8b9-2a63d75b5459_story.html

 

House Bill would Halt New Mountaintop Removal Mines

June 19, 2012

A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives aims to put a halt on new or expansion mountaintop removal coal mining permits until further health studies can be conducted.

The bill was introduced by 13 members of Congress led by Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Louise Slaughter, D-New York. It calls for a moratorium on new mountaintop removal coal mines until science “demonstrates the mines will not cost local families their lives and health.”

If passed, the bill would prevent new permits until the Secretary of Health and Human Services published a determination that mountaintop removal presents no human health risks.

The representatives point to studies showing elevated levels of birth defects, groundwater contamination and air pollution as a result of mountain top removal coal mining.

Read article at http://wvgazette.com/News/201206190104

BLM Could Enhance Appraisal Process, More Explicitly Consider Coal Exports, and Provide More Public Information

February 4, 2014

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released findings related to coal leasing and the need for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to enhance the appraisal process. GAO found that the BLM consistently failed to explain the rationale for accepting bids for coal leasing on federal land that at least initially were far below the actual fair market value presale estimates.

The report stated that the state offices of the BLM did not allow independent review of these leasing agreements with coal companies. Additionally, GAO cited that the BLM failed to take advantage of an independent third party appraisal within the Department of the Interior (Office of Valuation of Services).  Lastly, GAO was highly critical of the BLM’s failure to provide even limited information to the public on federal coal leasing.

 Read article at http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-140

 See document at http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/659801.pdf

New study examines mountaintop removal’s potential impact on mental health in Appalachia communities

October 22, 2013

Michael Hendryx of West Virginia University recently released a report that highlights the severe emotional toll that the coal industry’s practice of mountaintop removal takes on the people living where these extraction tactics take place.

The study released showed that of 8,591 adults living in Central Appalachia, 17% of respondents in mountaintop removal mining areas suffered from major depression. This was compared with 10% of respondents diagnosed with major depression in non-mining areas.

 Read article at http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2013/10/22/new-study-examines-mountaintop-removals-potential-impact-on-mental-health-in-appalachia-communities/

 See document at http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/eco.2013.0029

Final Memorandum: Improving EPA Review of Appalachian Surface Coal Mining Operations, EPA 2011

Improving EPA Review of Appalachian Surface Coal Mining Operations Under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and the Environmental Justice Executive Order. Published July 21, 2011.

/documents/final-memorandum-improving-epa-review-of-appalachian-surface-coal-mining-operations-epa-2011

MSHA announces results of April impact inspections

May 31, 2011

The results of the April 2011 MSHA “impact” inspections have been announced, resulting in a total of 161 citations and orders being issued against eight different coal mining operations. All cited mines were in the eastern region of the US, including Shoemaker and Randolph in West Virginia, the No. 2 and #68 mines in Kentucky, as well as one mine in each of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee and Alabama.

Among the worst offenders in the sweep were the Vision Coal’s No. 2 mine, which received 37 citations and orders that documented (among other things) that Vision wasn’t properly drilling bore holes to test for methane, and that it was creating a risk of a collapse by not following its ceiling reinforcement plan. Inman Energy’s Randolph mine received 25 citations, 21 of which were the most serious “S&S” citations indicating an immediate danger to the mining crew. The impact inspections grew out of an increased enforcement push by MSHA after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine. Impact inspections target mines that have a history of violations.

Read article at http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2011/05/31/msha-announces-results-of-latest-inspection-sweeps/ and http://www.wfpl.org/2011/06/01/two-kentucky-mines-cited-in-msha-inspections/. Read MSHA press release at http://www.msha.gov/MEDIA/PRESS/2011/NR110531.asp See the list of inspected mines at http://coaldiver.org/documents/master-inspection-list-targeted-enforcement-msha-april-2011

MSHA Internal Audits, Region 7, 2010

Reports from MSHA Office of Accountability reviews of MSHA inspectors in region 7.

/documents/msha-internal-audits-region-7-2010

MSHA Internal Audits, Region 11, 2010

Reports from MSHA Office of Accountability reviews of MSHA inspectors in region 11.

/documents/msha-internal-audits-region-11-2010

Master Inspection List, Targeted Enforcement, Nov 2010

A list of the mines inspected and citations issued in the November 2010 push by MSHA to reinspect mines with a pattern of violations.

Coal mines included on the list were:

/documents/master-inspection-list-targeted-enforcement-nov-2010

Shepherd Bend Mine – Application for ASMC Permit # P3945 – 2010

Application to the Alabama Surface Mining Commission for the proposed Shepherd Bend surface coal mine. 

/documents/shepherd-bend-mine-%e2%80%93-application-for-asmc-permit-p3945

The Impact of Coal on the Tennessee State Budget – WV Center on Budget and Policy – 2010

A report from June 2010 concluding that the coal industry in Tennessee is less than 1% of state revenues, that in certain accounts the coal mining industry imposes a net cost on the state budget, and that overall the industry costs taxpayers $3M more than the state receives back in revenue. With addendum added August 5, 2010.

/documents/the-impact-of-coal-on-the-tennessee-state-budget-wv-center-on-budget-and-policy-2010

Alabama and Mississippi – Resource Management Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement – 2008

A unified RMP and FEIS for all federally administered public surface lands and mineral rights for AL and MS which tries to move the management of lands into a unified plan instead of the previous “consider each project in isolation” plan.

/documents/alabama-and-mississippi-resource-management-plan-and-final-environmental-impact-statement-2008