Mountaintop removal – a process of coal extraction in which the tops of mountains are literally removed with explosives to reveal seams of coal below – has captured much of the national imagination over the last year. What was once a relatively unknown mining practice (indeed, MTR mining has been going on in West Virginia since the 1960s) is now widely understood, and environmental groups around the country have called for an end to this practice.
As the New York Times reports, today the Environmental Protection Agency revoked a clean water permit for one of the nation’s most massive mountaintop removal projects. Environmentalists have hailed the decision, and West Virginian politicians and coal and mining interests have vehemently denounced it.
The new mine, Spruce No. 1 Mine in Lohan County, West Virginia, would have covered an area of 2,278 acres. In addition to the decimation of mountain ridges during mountaintop removal, the rubble from the mining process is typically dumped into the valleys between mountains – exactly where streams run. Valley fills, as they are known, usually contaminate these streams with heavy metals, soils, and pollutants from the mining process. It is on these grounds that the EPA made the decision to revoke Arch Coal’s Clean Water Act permit.
While today’s decision is a victory for environmentalists, mountaintop removal continues on all throughout Appalachia. Mountaintop removal is only necessary to remove coal, the fossil fuel that powers many of our power plants. Decreasing our energy consumption – and hence, the demand for coal – is one of the ways those of us in locales distant from Appalachia can make a difference for the better, however small. Reducing energy consumption not only decreases demand on mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, but also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.
And, when it comes to the bottom line, reducing energy consumption means lower energy bills, too.
GREEN DEPOT SOLUTIONS
Water heaters are one of the largest consumers of energy in the average home, and swapping out an older-model water heater for a new, energy-efficient model can substantially reduce energy costs. The GeoSpring Hybrid Water Heater is an especially energy-efficient model, qualified by ENERGY STAR. It combines heat pump technology with traditional electric elements to save the homeowner up to 62% on annual water heating expenses — even up to $320.
We’ve written extensively in the past about insulating homes and the added benefits of fitting your home so that it retains more heat, instead of losing it. This is better for reducing heating costs, and thus for reducing our environmental footprint – approximately 4 metric tons of carbon dioxide are emitted each year from residences, most of which is the consequence of home heating. Conventional fiberglass insulation is a suspected carcinogen, so using a green product like Bonded Logic Ultratouch Recycled Cotton Insulation is a major step towards making a greener home. For an even more efficient home, National Fiber Cel-Pak Cellulose Insulation is a blow-in material that settles into the tiniest corners and cracks of walls, ceilings, and attics.
Other, every day items that you can change around the house can help reduce your electricity bill. Using an energy monitor or power strip – and ensuring you turn it off when you’re not using appliances – can stop “phantom charges” that slowly drive up energy consumption. Using compact fluorescent bulbs – and even more efficient LED bulbs – can reduce energy consumption even further.