Thursday, January 10, 2008

Do you love mountains? (Santee Cooper, ABEC don't)

I received this letter from the group yesterday. They're a coalition of 7 non profit groups representing five states across Appalachia. They work to protect the southern mountains from coal mining practices known as "mountain top removal" -- a practice that would be considered barbaric if it were practiced, say in South American, but is apparently legal in the good ole USA. Santee Cooper's proposed coal plant will received its coal from Appalachia as a result of mountain top removal mining. More on that topic in future posts:

Dear Rusty,

If you've been watching cable news, you've probably seen the television ads from the coal industry that tout coal as a "clean energy" that provides "America's power."

Why is the coal industry suddenly spending so much money on the airwaves, trying to convince Americans that coal is good for them?

They're doing so because as the public learns the dirty secrets behind so-called "clean" coal" -- from the more than 450 mountains destroyed by mountaintop removal mining to coal's role in contributing to global warming -- they're doubting the coal industry's contention that expanding the use of coal is worth the high costs to our environment.

That's why the coal industry is going on the offense with a full-scale PR blitz featuring media buys and fake "astroturf campaigns" in the early presidential primary states.

For example, in South Carolina -- a state that relies upon mountaintop removal coal to power its coal plants -- an industry front group called Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) has launched TV and print advertising alongside a new website to influence the debate over coal during this month's presidential primary:

[The ABEC website features an] array of young people, many of whom appear to be under 10 years of age, enlighten visitors about the happy, hunky-dory world of coal. Alicia sets down her book bag to explain how coal and environmentalism go hand in hand, while young Sarah tells how we have more energy in the form of coal than the Middle East has in oil. "I'm doing my homework," she says. "You do yours too."

The website is part of a multimillion dollar campaign by ABEC to promote American coal interests. They estimate they'll spend around $200,000 in S.C. during this election cycle, and they're focusing on newspaper and television advertisements..... ABEC also appears to have a dedicated staff of bloggers and public relations folks — within hours of a recent post about coal on City Paper blogs, their representatives had left comments in favor of the industry.

ABEC doesn't deny that they're funded by power, mining, and shipping industry interests....

But across the country, people like you are standing up to prevent the greenwashing of the coal industry and to get the truth out about the high cost of coal to our nation's environment and the mountains we love.

And in 2007, you made incredible gains:

-More than 25,000 Americans have pledged to end mountaintop removal mining (MTR) on
-An incredible 122 cosponsors in Congress are now supporting the Clean Water Protection Act , which would sharply curtail mountaintop removal coal mining
-More than ten thousand letters have been sent to Congress and the Office of Surface Mining, urging Congress to act to stop MTR and demanding that the Bush administration leave alone rules that protect our mountains and streams from the destructive waste of MTR coal mining.

Your efforts are part of a nationwide movement that is putting pressure on the coal industry to clean up its act on multiple fronts. For example:

-More than 50 proposed coal plants have been defeated in recent years, with more than 60 proposed coal plants being fought around the country
-CARMA (Carbon Monitoring for Action) have unveiled an online campaign that reveals the carbon emissions of more than 50,000 power plants and 4,000 power companies in every country on Earth.
-Our own My Connection campaign is raising awareness of how power companies across the United States are helping to fund mountaintop removal coal mining through the purchase of dirty coal.

These efforts are just the beginning. In 2008, we have a plan to ensure that the debate over coal and mountaintop removal coal mining remains at center stage.

The coal industry may be gearing up for a fight -- but so are we.

In the coming weeks, I'll be writing more about what we have in store for the coming year. But you can help grow the movement today by forwarding this email to five family members or friends. Ask them to join you in pledging to stop mountaintop removal coal mining in 2008. They can join by clicking here:

Thank you for everything you do.

Mary Anne Hitt


David, with ABEC said...

Th term "mountaintop mining" is a misnomer since it is not a matter of blowing the tops off mountains. It involves removing the “overburden” to expose a coal seam on a hill, mining that coal, and then putting that land either back to its original contour or to some agreed-upon beneficial use. There are new regulations that carefully outline what can and cannot be done.

In some cases, post-mining practices have taken land that was otherwise usable and allowed it to be developed into schools, hospitals, regional medical centers, shopping malls, and agricultural land.

In any case, we need to put this into context, because there is a misconception of how much of this is going on. What some people call “mountaintop mining” accounts for less than 10 percent of the coal produced in America — and we’re able to make that percentage smaller each year.

Matt from said...

If folks want to check out Santee Cooper's existing plants' connections to mountaintop removal,
click here.

In respose to David from ABEC:

Glad to see ABEC is actually willing to talk about mountaintop removal, David - even if it's in the same obfuscatory way that your deceptive astroturf organization addresses all energy issues.

I have to say, though, it seems a little foolish to contend that coal companies are NOT blowing the tops off mountains when anyone with an internet connection can look at a
photo like this one
and see that you are, well, lying. Looks like the perfect location for a school, though, doesn't it? I'm sure the children of West Virginia are grateful that you are creating all that flat land for them at the tops of mountains where nobody lives, where the land is to unstable to build on, and where there is no water supply (and what is water remains in streams that haven't been buried entirely is polluted beyond anything a sane person would drink - or even bathe in).

For more incontrovertible evidence that mountains are being blown up at an absolutely massive scale, check out this slideshow on flickr:

High-res mountaintop removal photos.

If all of this "flat land" were so good for economic development, you'd think that more than 1% of the million and a half acres strip mined in Central Appalachia would have been developed by now, wouldn't you?

I actually put a slide together to show how just a miniscule portion of the 10,000 acre Hobet mine in West Virginia could be put to good use. Let's get on it guys! Sam Walton, Donald Trump, where are you?

I'm glad to say, though, that we do agree on one thing: according to my calculations, only about 7% of America's coal comes from mountaintop removal. The good news from that is we could end the practice without throwing the entire coal-based economy of the US into chaos (though it would make building new coal plants in states like SC that rely on mountaintop removal coal an even worse idea than it already is).

Where you're wrong, though, is that the practice of mountaintop removal is increasing, not decreasing.

Hope that 200k ABEC is spending in SC is helping the economy down there - it's the one good thing about your disinformation campaign.

Walter, with SC said...

ABEC's presence in SC is unwanted and unhelpful -- our economy, which has much to gain from actual clean energy supplies, like biomass and wind, not to mention efficiency, does not need them, does not need to keep spending nearly 1 billion a year to import the coal they support removing from beneath "overburden" (their euphemism for mountain tops, i guess), and does not need any more coal plants.

I hope they leave us alone after the presidential primary -- if they don't everyone (who hasn't already) will see them for what they are: Santee Cooper's hired hack. ABEC, you guys are holding us back, please return to Washington.

happy sparkle bunny said...

Hi Dave,

Can you tell us what happens to all the heavy metals after it is scrubbed from your clean coal and turned to ash?

Is your clean ash placed in land fills and can it leach into the water table?

Is the mercury released later when the synthetic gypsum is processed for use in wallboard, you know like the new wallboard plant in Georgetown?

Does the use in cement manufacture release even more of the heavy metals?

Why are the pollutants released during the subsequent use of these waste byproducts not included in the total reported to DHEC?

Why scrub at the coal plant if it is just released in the same area later?


Anonymous said...

I have some good friends at one of the South's premier hydrology/engineering firms, and they did some studies on the effects similar types of coal mining have on water QUANTITY - the effect altering the earth's surface has on flash flooding, for instance, and its ability to cause further erosion. They found that it caused surprisingly little change long-term. Now, I don't know enough about this stuff to say whether or not their study related to "mountaintop removal" mining or not - I just know that the pictures of the site were pretty dramatic. Certainly, there appear to be other distasteful things about this type of mining, but I'm increasingly suspicious of the folks with the loud, strident voices - especially those who do not appear to be especially good at math and science.

Now, a few other issues - I think it's pretty unlikely that Santee Cooper, a state-owned non-profit, is giving any kind of money to ABEC, as some of the other posters have insinuated. I'm SURE some enterprising journalist would've been all over that story by now if there was any connection, because as a state agency, Santee Cooper would be FOIA-able.

As for the final resting place for metals/pollutants from coal combustion, I know it's common practice for much of the ash to be used to make concrete. I assume that makes most of the metals contained within it essentially inert. I've read about Santee Cooper's plan to use some of their waste to make gypsum, which can be sold as a useful consumer byproduct in wallboard. I'd assume companies go to great lengths to find markets for this stuff, just to save money. Landfilling would have to be the last option, and even then, landfills can be lined, monitored, and effluent treated to prevent groundwater contamination. What a fascinating modern age we live in.

happy sparkle bunny said...

Thanks Dave, That sure puts my mind at ease assuming your assumptions are correct.

It is gratifying to know that all the mercury and other toxins that are scrubbed and placed in wallboard is as clean as the coal.

I'm sure all those people sleeping next to the clean ash in the walls of their homes will take comfort in the fact that this same material when placed in a landfill requires a liner and water monitoring to keep the toxins and heavy metals from poisoning well water.

/The more you know....

Anonymous said...

walter - I spoke with the local ABEC lobbyist at a McCain rally yesterday and he was very clear that Santee Cooper IS NOT a member of ABEC but also they CANNOT BE A MEMBER OF ABEC since they are public power.

Another conspiracy theory BUSTED!!!

Moultrie said...

hey anonymous dude, thanks for a first -- admitting you don't know enough to foist another suger-coated spin on us, this time about mountain top removal, whatever your mad math & science skillz are (i bet math & science aren't so important to you when it comes to climate science, tho).