This morning in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch I read an article about a wrangle between Arch Coal, based in Creve Couer, MO, and the federal EPA regulators. Arch is wanting to remove the tops of several mountains in West Virginia in order to get access to coal; WV residents are opposed to this (I can’t blame them) and the EPA is blocking the corporate move.
I’ve seen the results of mountain-top removal in West Virginia. It’s a sad sight, only possible in the past because the residents of the mountain valleys tend to be poor and without political clout.
The Post-Dispatch article mentioned another coal company in the St. Louis area which has also had disputes with the feds concerning their mining practices in West Virginia. I was interested and wondered why coal companies which were involved in mountain-top removal seem to be located in St. Louis, rather than in the Appalachians. Peabody Coal came to mind; I looked the firm up on the net and found that their headquarters is in St. Louis as well!
Here’s a satellite photo of a scalped mountain in West Virginia. What doesn’t show up in the photo is the silty spoils deposited in nearby ravines and valleys:
I’ve been pondering, and my conclusion is that the American coal industry is gradually transitioning from a focus on the Appalachian region to the Powder River region in Wyoming. There is a lot more coal there, and from what I’ve heard much of it will be sold to China. During my tumultuous years in Hannibal, I noticed numerous boxcars of coal from Wyoming trundling south towards a coal-fired power plant near St. Louis.
Of course, the big question is: how long can this last? Stay tuned for the resource wars of the 21st Century…
Larry (who has a regrettable fondness for ellipses…)