New Report: Coal Exports Overseas Are Increasing From Appalachian Mines

By Jessica Goad

Yesterday, Congressman Ed Markey’s (D-MA) Natural Resources Committee staff released a report called “Our Pain, Their Gain:  Mountains Destroyed for Coal Shipped Overseas.”  It outlines how coal exports from Appalachia have been growing over the past few years. And, quite surprisingly, how some of the companies in the region export up to 100 percent of the coal that they mine.

As the report details:

Coal exports have nearly doubled since 2009 to 107 million tons last year, now accounting for almost 12 percent of U.S. production.  Three out of every four tons that are exported come from the Appalachian region.

Some these exports are from mountaintop removal mines — one of the most destructive types of mining that destroys mountains in order to access the coal underneath. Already, mountaintop removal has flattened an area the size of Delaware and polluted more than 2,000 miles of streams.

As Markey’s report concludes:

While mountaintop removal mines are happy to sell to the highest foreign bidder, it’s the Appalachian people who are paying the steepest price for this coal that America no longer uses.

The use of coal  in the United States is on the decline due to the rise of natural gas, a strong activist community, and new public health regulations making it difficult to keep old, dirty power plants open.  But coal companies have seen exports as a way to continue growing. In fact, exporting coal is often more lucrative than selling it domestically.

Coal exports in other parts of the country are expected to increase, particularly from Wyoming and Montana’s Powder River Basin.  A number of companies like Peabody and Arch Coal are investing heavily in infrastructure like railways and new ports in the Pacific Northwest to ensure that this happens.

But one key difference between coal exports from the West and Appalachia is that the great majority of the coal in the Powder River Basin is owned by American taxpayers. Despite the accumulating evidence that coal mining has major environmental and health impacts, the U.S. Department of the Interior continues to offer major lease sales of our taxpayer-owned coal, knowing that much of could be bound for locations overseas.

Jessica is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.


9 Responses to New Report: Coal Exports Overseas Are Increasing From Appalachian Mines

  1. And as we know, coal is part of the puzzle (major player).

    Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise
    Despite global talks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide production is up 3 percent in 2011

    Full steam ahead for an uninhabitable planet.

  2. Such a sad commentary for American “justice”.The corporations reap the profits the people are left with a ripped up land,and polluted rivers.America needs more clean renewable energy.America needs more jobs America needs more justice.

  3. Christopher S. Johnson says:

    The export of coal is insidious and unethical because it directly undermines our own carbon reduction efforts.

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Let’s see. Land destroyed, water and people poisoned, miners lungs filled with coal-dust. Massive profits for the Bosses. Brother-that’s the ‘Real American Way’, or did you miss the last 200 odd years? A ‘win-win-win’ for the 1%. Talk of taking back ‘our’ country is foolish, naive and tragically ironic, because it never has been ‘the people’s’ country. Like every capitalist state it belongs to those who own it and follow the Golden Rule- ‘He who has the gold makes the rules’.

  5. Paul Klinkman says:

    We’re getting off of coal because coal is such a climate change gas disaster. So we sell it to China at a pittance, and then they send the released carbon dioxide right back to us. Isn’t politics wonderful!

  6. Mark Shapiro says:

    Watch “The Last Mountain.” The external costs start long before they burn the coal.

    They get the coal mine. We get the shaft.

  7. The problem with your view is that it is to simplistic and a generalization. There are several examples when people we could call part of the 1% help to do something to stop climate change.

    Basically we have a systemic problem, when parasite mentality overtakes the system.

    Please check out Bruce Schneier talking about Societies Liers and Outliers (with the main focus on security).

    Bruce Schneier – Trust Security and Society

  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I agree that it’s systemic Chris but it works in the opposite direction, i.e. when an idealistic person is elected to a representative democracy, they find themselves in a system governed by inequality of status in which they must fight for their own interests. It isn’t long before self interest becomes the most visible characteristic and this can be taken to its extreme but logical limits as we see in the USA political system today.

    It takes huge reserves of strength to overcome these dynamics and while some can manage it, most can’t. The failing becomes ubiquitous which is what leads people like Mulga to blame the people while it is the system and its underlying design principle that must be changed, ME

  9. Jan says:

    Exporting coal may be the fatal “loophole” through which poisons flow. A carbon tax may, if it ever passes our Congress, divert investment to green energy. BUT….Even a carbon tax, unless it is levied before export, may not touch coal emissions for exported coal.

    It may be only when Fl, NY, etc. are under water, the midwest a dust bowl, and most forests gone that there will be a confluence of corporate will and political will. I say corporate will, not political will. Why?? Even if 90% of the public demands mitigation legislation, there is no guarantee the pols would give a damn.