Mountaintop-removal coal outlawed in North Carolina?

State Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford County) has introduced legislation that would outlaw importation of coal that was extracted using mountaintop-removal, a destructive form of strip mining that levels mountains with dynamite to expose a coal seam. Mountaintop-removal sites are concentrated in eastern Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia and southern West Virginia.

About 60 percent of North Carolina’s electricity is derived from burning coal. Progress Energy and Duke Energy — the state’s largest utility companies — import nearly all their coal from Appalachian mines, and about half of it is extracted using mountaintop-removal.

Utilities reacted to the proposal by warning that it would drive up rates, according to an article in Raleigh’s News and Observer. Coal, which is in growing demand worldwide, is also getting more expensive.

Pictured is a satellite image, found on, depicting where coal for Progress Energy’s Skyland facility is sourced. (The mining tools represent the mine sites — in our case, they are located in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. The orange power plant represents Asheville’s Skyland plant, and the grayscale plants are other facilities in Progress Energy’s system that burn mountaintop-removal coal.)

— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor


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14 thoughts on “Mountaintop-removal coal outlawed in North Carolina?

  1. travelah

    I would be surprised if that would pass muster with Federal Commerce protections not to mention burdening the citizens of NC with even more increased energy costs.

  2. Kat

    travelah said: “burdening the citizens of NC with even more increased energy costs” .. so we will choose to burden the citizens of Appalachia with cancers, lung problems, poisoned wells, floods, and a permanently devastated ecosystem instead? what a crock of… entitlement.

    Higher energy costs are coming, no matter whether we rip open every mountain on Earth; destroying a renewable resource (diverse, functional forest ecosystems) to gobble up a non-renewable one is like selling your car to pay for a vacation cruise. No common sense, just greed. CONSERVATION is what we should be promoting.

    The short truth of it is, our purchase and burning of coal from destroyed mountains is immoral and sinful. Every time we flip a light switch, we are complicit in the destruction and death occurring throughout the Appalachians. Kudos to Rep. Harrison for stepping up to do the right thing. And the rest of you: Turn off your AC and buy a box fan; unplug what you aren’t using; and help pass this bill!

  3. travelah

    Kat, I am not in favor of strip miing however I am also not in favor of knee jerk actions that have a questionable legal basis and would be forced upon an entire population without exploring immdeiate solutions to the problems raised by these actions.
    If you favor stripping up to half the fuel source of NC energy generation, what is your proposal for substitutions. Please don’t tell me “conservation” as that is not a reasonable response for such a large piece of the energy picture.

  4. travelah

    Kat, I might add that you should consider turning off your computer for starters lest you find yourself in a hypocritical position.

  5. Lawrence

    travelah: “If you favor stripping up to half the fuel source of NC energy generation…”

    Actually, this article puts the figure at about 30%. Even less, since most MTR coal could be extracted by underground mining, which happens to create more jobs while devastating far less of Appalachia.

    “…don’t tell me “conservation” as that is not a reasonable response for such a large piece of the energy picture.”

    Funny, since Europe and Japan maintain a comparable standard of living with 1/2 the per capita energy consumption. Perhaps travelah should check his/her ‘facts’ prior to forming an opinion. Here’s one place to start:

  6. 9-volt

    During the California energy black outs conservation alone contributed to a reduction of 10%-30% of electricity usage depending on location.

  7. travelah

    Lawrence, that 30% reliance of sourced coal jumps up when the nuclear reactors go down for their maintenance.
    As for Europe and Japan, when you have replaced the infrastructure with their scaled down comparisons to our appliances and living spaces, come back and make the suggestion again. Having lived in Europe, I am somewhat aware of what it is like and I do not think passing a law to eliminate Progress Energy’s significant fuel sources is going to be covered by your suggestion.

    Why not offer some solutions to the problem instead of attacking those who point out the shortsightedness of another’s actions?

  8. Lawrence

    Conserve first or first suffer a relatively small energy price rise after halting MTR. Chicken, egg. Either way we will end up less wasteful and with high energy costs. However, in only one scenario does Appalachia still have clean water and productive ecosystems. The energy externalities (war, pollution, climate change, scarcity, etc.) are coming home to roost.

    You’ve twice asked for solutions while only offering unhampered mountaintop removal as your own. That’s not setting the bar very high. I’m sorry you see me as “attacking”. I was merely pointing out your “shortsightedness”.

  9. travelah

    Lawrence, my solution is for Progress move more into nuclear energy production and away from coal, backed up with natural gas. That will take time.

  10. William P Miller

    I sympathize with this bill. But, if it is enacted, our electricity bills will go up. Of course we could go nuclear, but people don’t seem to like that either. It’s not cut and dried, is it. I agree with travelah that nuclear is the answer.

  11. Lawrence

    Let’s set aside for the moment whether nukes should be built. The fact is that few, if any, ever will be. First, public opposition, both local and national, is too strong. More importantly, the economics just aren’t there, hence Wall Street’s disinclination to invest in them. Despite being by far the most heavily subsidized energy source (are travelah and William ‘tax and spend liberals’?), no new nukes have been started in 30 years. Then, there’s the unsolved waste problem as the 900-pound gorilla in the room. Finally, the span from idea to electricity is way too long to contribute significantly to our immediate energy issues. You’re going to have to come up with more realistic ideas, guys.

    The question is, what do we do about MTR now? Do we really want to pin our hopes on a nuclear pipe dream while Appalachia is destroyed and it’s citizens are, once again, sacrificed in the ‘national interest’?

  12. travelah

    Lawrence, there are already 30 applications pending, 20 of which are new permit applications. Public opposition is not against nuclear power contrary to the activists who oppose it.
    Relative to the opening post, our needs are not immediate. We have far more than sufficient coal reserves to meet energy demands until Nuclear power generation comes on line. Ten of the new applications are for new reactors at existing facilities. The Riverbend nuclear facility operated by Entergy in St. Francisville, LA, for example has two reactors operating now and well advanced permit applications to construct an additional reactor nearly doubling their power output.
    We cannot afford to sit back and wait on alternative energy sources that have not been developed while our nation is held hostage to the whims of hostile foreign suppliers. Other solutions include opening up a considerable portion of the 80% of our energy resources that have been placed off limits by aggressive environmentalists who do not have the best interests of our country at heart. Technology has not been at a standstill for 30 years. You can look at the French as an example of what a sane nuclear policy will provide. Look to the Germans to see what a sane natural gas policy will do. One thing is certain. We have to stop taking a myopic viewpoint based on questionable, no, non-existent scientific data.

  13. 9-volt

    I have seen first hand Appalachian communities literally destroyed by MTR. This is a real and immediate problem, even though it is invisible to most people. There is no silver bullet answer to our energy woes. A combination of conservation, investment in clean technology, and better land planning/transportation can go a long way in helping our energy glut.

    Here are some aerial photos of MTR from South Wings:

  14. Chris

    “Sufficient reserves of coal” in the sacrifice zone of the Cumberland Plateau! Until we have nukes mining and dumping anew in the sacrifice zones of Native Southwest!
    Round and round you want us to spiral into the pit of pollution and wasteland! I love this country too much for that!
    Tell your ideas to the children of Appalachia who sleep in their shoes when it rains for fear of the NEXT flash flood off striped land!

    (no exclamation point needed)

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