Appalachian Heartbreak: Time to End Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Issue Paper
November 09, 2009

Coal is America's dirtiest energy source -- and the country's leading source of global warming pollution. Pollution from coal plants produces dirty air, acid rain, and contaminated land and water. Nowhere is the debate over how far we are willing to go for inexpensive energy more contentious than in the coalfields of Appalachia. It is there -- between the hollows of West Virginia, beyond the bluegrass of Kentucky, bordering the Blue Ridge of Virginia, and above the smoky vistas of Tennessee -- where mining companies are blowing up America's oldest mountains to get the coal beneath the peaks. Mountaintop removal mining, or MTR, is scarring the landscape and threatening communities throughout Appalachia.

Instead of extracting the coal by underground mining, MTR uses explosive charges and large machinery to remove the mountain and get to the coal. More than 500 mountaintops have already been destroyed and more than one million acres of forest have been clearcut. Well over a thousand miles of valley streams have been buried under tons of rubble, polluting drinking water and threatening the health and safety of all who make their home in the region.

NRDC and our grassroots partners are pushing for federal legislation to close the legal loopholes that make MTR pollution possible. Instead of allowing dirty mountaintop removal to continue, America should look to clean energy solutions that will create jobs, boost the economy, and help fight global warming.