This week a double tragedy has struck the coal mining industry.
On Monday night in West Virginia, a coal outburst at a Patriot-operated mine killed two miners. And on Tuesday an explosion and fire at a coal mine in Western Turkey killed at least 245, with hundreds more still missing.
Our hearts and minds are with the miners and their families.
These disasters underscore the horrific cost of “cheap” and dirty energy. Miners’ deaths such as these are preventable. We call on coal companies to immediately improve labor conditions, and on the governments of Turkey and the United States to strengthen their regulatory oversight of the coal industry.
At the same time, here at Rainforest Action Network, we are reflecting on the less noticed human cost of coal. Every year, more than one million people die of the air pollution that comes from burning coal. 150,000 more die from the extreme weather events aggravated by climate change–and coal is the single biggest driver of global warming.
All of this points to an obvious conclusion. We must not continue to make these sacrifices in order to produce energy from such a dirty and unsustainable source. Coal is a dangerous and outdated fuel, and in the 21st century we should not be using it to power our homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. It is past time for us to shift our energy production to clean, safe renewable power.
Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining, particularly large-scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long-term interests. Today’s proposed settlement commits Patriot Coal to phase out and permanently exit large scale surface mining and transition our business primarily toward underground mining and related small scale surface mining. Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors. We believe the proposed settlement will result in a reduction of our environmental footprint.While this may sound like a change of heart, it is worth noting that Patriot was facing some tough economic challenges. The company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June and was being sued by environmental and citizens’ groups in West Virginia federal court to stop polluting water with selenium, a metal released by large-scale strip mining, and clean up the pollution. Whatever their motivation, this news is a win for the mountains and communities of Appalachia.