Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New approach could help resolve mountaintop mining issues

Date:
December 10, 2012
Source:
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University)
Summary:
A progressive approach to resolve the complex issues surrounding mountaintop mining needs to incorporate good civic science and meaningful routes for public involvement, researchers say.

In the practice of mountaintop mining, large quantities of soil and rock are removed to reach thin seams of coal.
Credit: Image courtesy of Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech researchers say a history of public distrust and contradicting policies from government agencies have hindered efforts to increase the community's voice in decisions about mountaintop mining.

Mountaintop mining is the practice of using huge machines to remove layers of soil and rock to reach thin seams of coal. It is an efficient way to reach the high-thermal value, low-impurity coal in the central Appalachian range, which accounts for one-fifth of the nation's coal, and it is a resource for American energy independence.

But it has its disadvantages -- mountaintops are deposited into valleys, trees and habitats are destroyed, chemical drainage may pollute streams, and many find it ugly.

Taking conflicts into account -- such as the benefits of steady jobs and tax revenue versus declining environments and resources -- are essential to a deliberative discussion about mountaintop mining, according to John Craynon, project director of the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science with the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research at Virginia Tech.

"Take advantage of the duality of stakeholders, such as a member of a mining-impacted community who is an employee of a mining operation," Craynon said. "The perspective gained via one role might inform decisions made in another."

Virginia Tech researchers writing for an upcoming issue of Resources Policy say federal and state government and mining industry efforts to increase the community's voice in decision- making have not succeeded in incorporating stakeholders' values and concerns.

A public ecology approach can give the stakeholders -- including members of the coal mining industry, federal and state agencies and courts, labor unions, environmental and community advocacy groups, land holding companies, private citizens, and researchers -- a new focus, according to co-authors Craynon; Emily Sarver, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering's Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering; and David P. Robertson, associate director of the College of Natural Resources and Environment's Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability in Virginia Tech's National Capital Region.

"To put such new ideas into practice, there is need for more than just research. We have to teach the next generation of engineers, scientists, and policy makers, and reach out to the stakeholders in this debate," Sarver said.

Public ecology is the nexus of science, engineering, public policy and interest, citizen views and values, market forces, and environmental protection statutes and regulations. Through open discussion, it ensures ecological systems continue to function while commerce continues.

The researchers say issues of environment and economy are valued differently based on proximity. Problems arise because environmental and social impacts of mining are largely local, but decision-making tends to be driven by state, federal, or even global energy goals and regulations.

Defining the public is important, the researchers say.

"The public includes the CEO and the machine operator, both of whom grew up locally and fished the streams and now support their families by working for the mining company," Craynon said. "People with complex motivations have the best chance of succeeding in understanding and accommodating stakeholders' significant differences in values and interests."

The researchers' recommendations for action depend upon broad participation and transparency. But they are optimistic that attempts by some groups -- including the U.S. coal industry -- to increase public participation may signify a turn for the better. "The recent decision by Patriot Coal to stop mountaintop mining may exemplify a shift in industry response," Robertson said.

But questions remain, the largest being whether interested stakeholders are willing to participate in deliberative processes, many of which require compromise in order to find a common and higher ground.

The U.S. may also need to fundamentally restructure regulatory programs in order to bring all the interested parties to the table with a meaningful role. Craynon, Sarver, and Robertson point to the Chesapeake Bay clean up as a model program where public ecology and broad participation has overcome significant controversy and overlapping regulatory programs.

"The resolution of complex issues such as mountaintop mining may require radical boldness to break through years of distrust and allow for the adoption of a more public ecology," the article concludes. "Through the cooperation of all parties, mountaintop coal mining may be modified so that better social, environmental and economic goals can be achieved and the interests of all affected parties can be adequately considered."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). "New approach could help resolve mountaintop mining issues." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121210101349.htm>.
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). (2012, December 10). New approach could help resolve mountaintop mining issues. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121210101349.htm
Virginia Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). "New approach could help resolve mountaintop mining issues." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121210101349.htm (accessed September 22, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, September 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) Organizers of the People's Climate March and other rallies taking place in 166 countries hope to move U.N. officials to action ahead of their summit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

New Music With Recycled Instruments at Colombia Fest

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Jars, bottles, caps and even a pizza box, recovered from the trash, were the elements used by four musical groups at the "RSFEST2014 Sonorities Recycling Festival", in Colombian city of Cali. Duration: 00:49 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins