Cleaning Up the Coal Industry

by Bruce Hamilton, Northern Great Plains Representative; The Sierra Club, Lander, Wyo.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1977, Vol. 47, Issue 7, Pg. 54-56

Document Type: Feature article


The idea of unleashing coal draglines and continuous mining on the U.S. countryside is an unsettling one to many conservationists. Generally, the coal industry has only done as much as the laws have required it to do — and less if the laws are not strictly enforced. Many fear the Western states may become the new Appalachia. Roughly half the country's coal reserves are in the West, but today the region supplies only about 10% of the nation's coal. Coal producers anticipate a fourfold increase in Western production by 1985. The transition of parts of northeastern Wyoming from a sparcely populated agricultural area to an intensely strip mined area, for example, poses major social and environmental problems. The best way to minimize the impact of future coal development is to enact strong federal coal surface mining legislation and insist on strong enforcement. Federal strip mining legislation has passed the House and Senate and is now in conference committee.

Subject Headings: Coal mining | Industries | Federal government | Legislation | Agriculture | Social factors | Environmental issues | Residential buildings | Wyoming | United States

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