Arch Coal Ignored Low-Cost Alternative Coal Mine Design In Order To Save 55 Cents a Ton

Could West Virginia’s coal politics become even more absurd? Apparently, yes. Ken Ward Jr. reports in the Charleston Gazette that a formerly secret 48-page engineering report by Morgan Worldwide [PDF], confirms that Arch Coal’s subsidiary Mingo Logan Coal Co. could have cut its stream damage from the Spruce Mine project in half – meeting the standards set by the EPA under the Clean Water Act. And at what cost for a company which earned $700 million last year? For a mere 55 cents per ton, or around 1 percent of the expected per-ton sales price, Arch could have used existing technologies to avoid polluting and potentially burying 5 more miles of streams.

The Morgan Worldwide report projected cost savings if the company accepted an alternative mine configuration to cut down discharges of mining waste into the Pigeonroost and Oldhouse streams. This less environmentally damaging compromise would have led to:

  • $10.4 million savings on proposed mitigation, based on the reduced stream impacts.
  • $600,000 in reduced reclamation costs.
  • $300,000 in savings on construction of sediment control ponds that would no longer be needed.

To read more about this, Ken Ward has published a follow-up piece, and Jeff Biggers provides context on the politics and health impacts in his Huffington Post piece.

When will West Virginia’s politicians recognize the insanity of letting the coal industry wreck the water and air in their historically beautiful state to save a few cents? Shouldn’t they do something about that, instead of bending over backwards to protect polluting industry profits ahead of public health and the environment?