It's Beyond Time Coal Mining Outlaws Are Held Accountable

As Peabody Energy teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, edging toward a Chapter II reorganization that will most likely allow it to walk away from massive reclamation and mine worker commitments, a flurry of poetic musings and giddy celebrations over of the death of Big Coal has begun to flow.

Spare me your coal requiems.

We're long overdue for a reckoning in so-called coal country.

We're long overdue for a reckoning in so-called coal country. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Fracking and natural gas may have brought Big Coal to its knees, but governmental complicity with the recklessness of the outlaw coal industry has left coal-mined regions like my native southern Illinois in utter ruin and despair.

Mr. Peabody and the rest of the Chapter 11 coal cats should be going to criminal court—not bankruptcy court. And their enablers in government service and their bankrolled political cheerleaders should be held accountable, as well.

While President Obama's proposed Power Plus Plan calls for millions in reclamation and reforestation projects, retraining programs for unemployed coal miners and bolstered pension plans for retired miners, it fails to take into account the huge reckoning coal-mined communities have paid with their health, lives and livelihoods.

Coal-mined communities don't need more flawed social programs that feed a failed system—they need to be on the front line of regeneration and revival, a showcase for new economies in renewable energy, energy efficiency and tech industries, local food and agriculture, underwritten by decades of sacrifice.

From Appalachia to Illinois to Black Mesa in Arizona to Montana and the 20 coal-mined states, a health and humanitarian crisis from the lethal fallout of decades of mining continues to rage under the auspices of flawed regulatory measures, blatant disregard for civil rights and media indifference.

Lung cancer, birth defects and heart problems will plague Appalachian communities for generations.

Huge toxic coal slurry impoundments, where the deadly refuge of coal processing hovers in the hills and forests like time bombs, will poison watersheds and threaten entire communities for years.

Black lung disease will still whittle away at the lives of workers for generations.

Underground fires will burn unabated for decades.

Streams and creeks contaminated by strip mine discharges will remain contaminated and without aquatic life.

Coal companies and barons who have openly flaunted workplace safety and environmental laws will walk away free.

Long controlled and owned as vassal colonies by absentee corporations—Mr. Peabody sank his first coal mine in southern Illinois 1895, more than a half century after slaves had been legally forced into first mines in the land of Lincoln—coal-mined communities have been denied any economic diversification development.

Unbelievably, in 2016, it's still that way.

And it ain't going away, even after Mr. Peabody packs up his last taxpayer-funded draglines and bulldozers and the parade of well-meaning environmentalists moves elsewhere. And it's not the first time our regions have been left with the wreckage: As my coal miner granddaddy reminded me, Mr. Peabody and the coal companies abandoned our southern Illinois region in the 1930s and left a picture of “almost unrelieved, utter economic devastation," according to the government report Seven Stranded Coal Towns. Despite churning out record amounts of coal and profits, southern Illinois remained one of the most depressed regions in the country, given over to “hopeless poverty."

Eight decades later, the requiems we write for coal uselessly parrot those headlines—unless we learn from our mistakes, atone for our regulatory disasters and hold coal mining outlaws accountable.


World's Largest Coal Company Expected to File for Bankruptcy as Stock Price Tanks

Show Comments ()

Trump Administration Offers 77 Million Acres in Gulf of Mexico to Oil Industry

The Trump administration is holding the biggest offshore oil and gas lease auction in U.S. history Wednesday, offering all 77 million acres of unleased, available federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The sale comes as administration officials seek to rescind drilling safety rules approved after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, reduce royalties paid by oil companies, and expand offshore drilling into every ocean in the country.

Keep reading... Show less
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Mitchell Resnick

Pruitt to Restrict Use of Scientific Data in EPA Policymaking

In the coming weeks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce a proposal that would limit the type of scientific studies and data the agency can use in crafting public health and environmental regulations.

The planned policy shift, first reported by E&E News, would require the EPA to only use scientific findings whose data and methodologies are made public and can be replicated.

Keep reading... Show less
Mity / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

20% of U.S. Diets Responsible for Almost Half of Country’s Food-Related Emissions, Study Finds

If you've been deliberating about going vegetarian, a study published Tuesday in Environmental Letters might give you the final push.

Keep reading... Show less
Sea Shepherd small boat assists the Liberian Coast Guard to chase down the F/V Hai Lung. Sea Shepherd

Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd

A notorious Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel, famous for plundering the Antarctic, was arrested on March 13 in waters belonging to the West African state of Liberia by the Liberian Coast Guard, with assistance from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.

The F/V Hai Lung, known to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by its previous name "Kily," was transiting through Liberian waters when it was boarded and inspected by a Liberian Coast Guard team working alongside Sea Shepherd crew on board Sea Shepherd's patrol vessel M/Y Sam Simon.

Keep reading... Show less

7 Must-See Films at the 42nd Cleveland International Film Fest

It's that time, again!

EcoWatch is proud to be a media partner of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), now celebrating its 42nd year. This year, EcoWatch is honored to be sponsoring Anote's Ark. This documentary spotlights Kiribati, a small remote island facing devastating effects due to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: 'We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full.' EU Commission Twitter

EU Approves Controversial Bayer-Monsanto Merger

The European Union approved Bayer's takeover of Monsanto, a major hurdle in the $66 billion merger that would create the world's largest integrated seed and pesticide conglomerate.

The European Commission said the German chemical-maker's takeover of the St. Louis-based agribusiness giant is "conditional on an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties' overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture."

Keep reading... Show less
Todd Porter & Diane Cu

How Much Daily Activity You Need to Burn off 9 Healthy (But High-Calorie) Foods

By Luke Doyle

A healthy lifestyle is fueled by nutrient-rich foods that give your body the energy it needs. But some of these foods come with high calorie counts and the "healthy" label doesn't mean it's okay to consume unlimited amounts of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Marine debris laden beach in Hawaii. NOAA Marine Debris Program / Flickr

Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years

If we don't act now, plastic pollution in the world's oceans is projected to increase three-fold within seven years, according to a startling new report.

The Future of the Sea report, released Wednesday for the UK government, found that human beings across the globe produce more than 300 million metric tons of plastic per year. Unfortunately, a lot of that material ends up in our waters, with the total amount of plastic debris in the sea predicted to increase from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million metric tons by 2025.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!