Mountaintop removal of coal is a cheaper , safer, easier way to get to the coal seam than digging a tunnel in to the mountainside to get to the coal. But it pollutes streams below and the Environmental Protection Agency is beginning to crack down on this practice. Then there is the fly ash issue, which exploded into public awareness after the Tennessee TVA retention pond burst in December. As if that is not enough, Congress is about to consider energy and climate change legislation that has carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-fired power plants in its crosshairs to be significantly reduced. And EPA is planning to regulate CO2 as a health threat.
While the EPA is examining about 200 coal mine permit applications under reviewed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Mining Association is complaining that even the reviews could threaten 77,500 coal mining jobs and 385 million tons of annual production in southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, southwest Virginia, Ohio and the Illinois Basin. Mainstream environmentalists want somebody to retrain coal miners to build wind mills. Of course local NIMBYs protest wind farm proposals and the high power lines that would be needed to carry the electricity to the cities.
Blacks do not work in coal mines, for the most part, do not own any coal mines, trains that haul it or utilities that burn it. Nor do blacks own the cement and concrete companies that reuse the fly ash from coal-fired power plants. Neither do blacks live in the coal mining communities mostly affected by mine runoff. Blacks will probably not have a role in the CO2 allowance trading market because they are not principals in the industries that will be regulated under a cap-and-trade program. Morever, most environmental justice groups oppose the proposed cap-and-trade program.
Coal prices by the ton fluctuate up and down along with the price of oil by the barrel. It is used to produce 50% of America's electricity. What about the fly ash and CO2 allowance trading markets? AAEA is promoting an Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve (EJAR) to deal with the 'hot spots' issue related to the proposed cap-and-trade program. Should blacks ignore and avoid black jobs (coal) in favor of strictly adhering to the green jobs (wind & weatherization) arena? We have similar questions about black ownership of wind farm companies to create some of those green jobs. Regardless of what happens with legislation, coal is not going anywhere in terms of being a fuel to produce electricity. (NYT, 3/25/09)