Coal Sucks Water
The United States produces 1 billion tons of coal a year, most of it burned in the nation's 600 coal-fired utilitiies. In the competition between energy and water, coal is in a league by itself. Roughly half of the 410 billion gallons of water withdrawn every day from the nation's rivers, lakes, and aquifers is used to mine coal, and cool electric power generating stations, most of which burn coal.
The Department of Energy forecasts that energy demand in the U.S. will grow 40 percent in the next four decades, and much of that growth will occur in the fast-growing southwest, Rocky Mountain region, and southeast, where climate change is reducing rainfall and snowmelt. Where coal falls in the nation's energy picture will be decided, in large part, by the industry's access to fresh water.
Coal, though, also is the largest source of climate-changing emissions of any industrial sector, as well as a significant source of water pollution. Evidence of the unholy water and coal alliance is visible along Virginia's Clinch River and one of its tributaries, Dumps Creek. In the last half-century, three toxic spills have contaminated the Clinch. But it's not unusual for state regulatory agencies to turn a blind eye when coal companies violate the Clean Water Act. In 2009, a New York Times investigation found that state agencies nationwide have taken action against fewer than three percent of Clean Water Act violators.
In contest with coal, water takes a beating.
American Rivers’ annual tally of threatened rivers highlights effects of drilling for natural gas.
Testing new methods to remove residual coal tar from riverbeds in New York.
The EPA must do a better job of regulating the waste and protecting the nation’s water supply.
Without sufficient nuclear power, dirty and expensive coal might be the only alternative.
Coal Run, a community denied water on allegedly racial grounds, can now turn on the tap at will.
A look at the places and faces affected by coal production in the United States.
The contest between coal-fired energy production and water demand is a mismatch.
A small Indiana town is slated for cleanup as an EPA Alternative Superfund Site.
“China is a very energy hungry country, so it’s not surprising that they are damming the rivers.”
- Sandia National Laboratories Overview of Energy-Water Interdependencies and the Emerging Energy Demands on Water Resources (March 2007)
- Source Watch Compendium of U.S. Coal-Fired Power Plants By State
- The Center For Public Integrity The Big Seep: Longwall Mining is Draining the Water from the Springs and Streams of the Northern Appalachia
- WorldWatch Institute United States Cracks Down on Coal Mining Pollution (April 7, 2010)
- Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review 34.1 Mountaintop Coal Mining and the Clean Water Act: The Fight Over Nationwide Permit 21 (2007)
- Science Magazine, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mountaintop Mining Consequences (Science & Regulation, Volume 327, January 2010)
- West Virginia University (WVU) Water Research Institute–Acid Drainage Technology Initiative (ADTI) Prediction of Water Quality at Surface Coal Mines
- Reuters EPA Eases Rule on Mountaintop Coal Mining Debris (December 3, 2008)
- The New York Times E.P.A. Moves to Limit Water Pollution from Mining (April 1, 2010)
- The New York Times Cleansing the Air at the Expense of Waterways (October 12, 2009)
- The New York Times Water Polluters Near You: Coal-Fired Power Plants, Nationwide Map (2010)
- Argonne National Laboratory: prepared for U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) A White Paper Describing Water from Production of Crude oil, Natural Gas, and Coal Bed Methane (January 2004)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Demands on Water Resources: Report to Congress on the Interdependency of Energy and Water (December 2006)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) Emerging Issues for Fossil Energy and Water: Investigation of Water Issues Related to Coal Mining, Coal to Liquids, Oil Shale, and Carbon Capture and Sequestration (June 2006)
- U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Office of Coal, Nuclear, Electric, and Alternate Fuels Annual Coal Report (2008)
- U.S. Department of the Army, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Memorandum of Understanding: Implementing the Interagency Action Plan on Appalachian Surface Coal Mining (June 11, 2009)
- U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey (US), National Water-Quality Assessment Program Effects of Coal-Mine Drainage on Stream Water Quality in the Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins—Sulfate Transport and Trends (2000)
- U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Water-Quality Assessment Program Ground-Water Quality in Unmined Areas and Near Reclaimed Surface Coal Mines in the Northern and Central Appalachian Coal Regions, Pennsylvania and West Virginia (2006)
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Mid-Atlantic Mountaintop Mining- Documents & Presentations
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Science and Technology Economic and Environmental Impact Assessment of Proposed Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Coal Mining Industry: Remining and Western Alkaline Subcategories (March 2000)