Do you prefer wind turbines to scarred mountaintops? A new study shows that some mountains in Appalachia are prime resources for wind energy. During the transitional stage from coal to clean energy, traditional subterranean mining can occur simultaneously with wind farms that provide sustainable environmental and economic benefits not possible with MTR.
For years, defensive strategies were used to oppose MTR mining. Now we have offensive measures. An environmental group commissioned a study by Wind Logics firm to determine viability of wind farms replacing MTR in Appalachia. Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW) is working with a Coal River Wind campaign to achieve that goal.
There is a mountaintop that would make a great wind farm, but a mining company wants to raze the mountain with MTR, which will preclude wind farms forever. We only have days to stop this insanity, so we need your help.
Mountaintop removal mining has devastating environmental impacts: Decapitation of over 450 mountains or at least 800 square miles of mountains leveled; clear cutting of over 400,000 acres of rich, diverse temperate forest that serve as carbon sinks and lungs and this deforestation can add as much as 138 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the killing of at least 724 streams that have been buried by mining waste and at least 1,200 miles of headwater streams affected by MTR.
The study found that Coal River Mountain offers high-quality wind resources: 220 turbines could be located on the ridges, generating “1.16 million megawatt-hours per year: more than several of the state’s operating coal-fired plants.” In fact, this wind farm could “produce enough power for 150,000 homes.”
The problem is that MTR can not coexist with wind power. Computer modeling showed that MTR mining that decapitates hundreds of feet from the mountain changes the wind patterns and reduces the wind speed. Thus, if MTR is allowed, “no wind farm will be possible any time in the future.”
If we are serious about changing to alternative energy, then we need to stop MTR before it is too late. Now, Massey mining wants to blast away Coal River Mountain, filling 18 hollows or valleys with toxic mining debris and killing 6 headwater streams. And, Massey wants to start blasting today, before the mining company even has all required approvals.
Replacing MTR with wind power has the obvious environmental benefits of not destroying mountaintops, streams, and eco systems. In terms of climate change impacts, MTR mining of this mountain would yield 58 million tons of coal in a 14-year lifetime, causing the emission of 170 tons of CO2. If wind energy is used on this mountain, it will prevent the release of 104 million tons of CO2 over the same 14-year period.
There are numerous sustainable economic benefits from wind power that are not available with MTR: timber, hunting, fishing, local crafts, furniture making, harvesting of ginseng and other wild plants and tourism.
In addition, the study found that the mountain can only provide 14 years of coal and jobs while a wind farm can be operated indefinitely for wind energy. Moreover, only 1 in 16 tons of coal produced in West Virginia is used for in-state energy consumption with the remaining 15 tons exported to other states or abroad. While wind energy may be exported too, it does not have the same intrinsic social and environmental deficits.
The proposed wind farm would generate millions in revenue for the local communities:
The proposed wind farm would generate over $20 million per year in direct local spending during construction and $2 million per year during the operational period. It would create 200-plus construction related jobs over the first two years, and 40-50 permanent on-site operation and maintenance jobs that would last as long as the wind farm exists. The project would also provide a minimum of $400,000 in State Tax Revenues, and between $750,000 and $3,000,000 in County Tax Revenues annually. Also, this wind farm could potentially provide the city of Beckley and the whole of Raleigh County with clean wind energy.
In order to succeed, Coal River Mountain launched a national campaign to ask the public and organizations to pressure Governor Joe Manchin, who has voiced support for renewable energy, to match his words by obtaining a “stay of execution” from the MTR mining.
Yesterday, Gov. Manchin stated it would be inappropriate to interfere with Massey’s plans to start blasting now because Massey has the proper permits. However, the secretary of the State Dept. of Environmental Protection stated that any such blasting would be illegal because Massey does not have all the requisite permits.
Or, send an email asking that Gov. Manchin uphold the law. Despite Massey’s intention to violate the law by blasting now, the Governor does nothing. The problem is that Massey knows that “it’s easier to break laws today and pay small fines tomorrow than it is to wait for permits.”
Massey has obtained permits for MTR mining but a 2007 federal court decision has halted 4 US Army Corps of Engineer valley fill permits due to insufficient analysis of the environmental impacts of valley fills, which kill streams. The appeal of this decision is scheduled for September 23, so we still have time to stop this madness.