Stop the madness: down with coal up with renewables


On Feb. 16, President Trump signed House Joint Resolution 38 to kill the Stream Protection Rule; a rule that was revised by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE or OSM) on Dec. 20, 2016, “based on advances in science, to improve the balance between environmental protection and the Nation’s need for coal as a source of energy.” 

The final revision was aimed at protecting water supplies, surface water and groundwater quality, streams, fish, wildlife and related environmental values from the inauspicious effects of surface coal mining operations. In essence, it provided coal miners with a regulation that prevented them from polluting the water. 

Tell me, why was that such a bad rule? 

Contrary to our POTUS’ belief that the regulation was going to harm coal workers and their communities that depend on them, it carried the intentions of protecting our water supply from pollution that would otherwise wreak havoc on an ecosystem and the wildlife that inhabit it. 

A summary of some of the benefits of the regulation listed on the website include: 

• Restoration of 22 miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year. 

• Improved water quality in 263 miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year downstream of mine sites. 

• Four miles of intermittent and perennial streams per year not being covered by excess spoil fills or coal mine waste facilities. 

• Improved reforestation of 2,486 acres of mined land per year. 

• Avoidance of mining operations of eight acres of forest per year. 

The OSM also estimated the rule will create an average annual employment gain of 156 full-time equivalents between 2020 and 2040. There will also be an annual reduction of 124 full-time equivalents in employment related to coal production, but the implementation of the rule will produce an annual gain of 280 full-time employees. Thus, it is a job gain, not a loss. It also prevents potential cleanup projects in the future like the Holden Mine Cleanup which (although a copper mine and inherited from the Holden Mining Company that closed shop in 1950s) is similar in terms of contamination. In total the project has cost Rio Tinto $200+ million and over five years to remediate. Without the remediation work from Rio Tinto the mine would have further contaminated Railroad Creek, which is the second largest contributor to Lake Chelan. 

So what if coal production goes down, we - as with the rest of the world - need to move off of coal and other “dirty fuels” i.e. oil and gas, and focus more on renewable energy sources like solar and wind power. 

In November, 2015, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) said that Governments worldwide spend $600 billion a year subsidizing fossil fuels. That $600 billion is five times the amount that is spent on supporting clean energy ($112 billion) and more than five time the amount rich industrialized nations have promised to poorer nations to help fight climate change on their front ($100 billion). 

That is just absurd. It is 2017. It’s time for people across the aisle to accept the consensus amongst scientist (around 95 percent of active climate researchers that study and write about the subject for a living) that climate change is a real thing. It is past time that we buck up, and invest more in renewable energy sources, and less in fossil fuels. 

Something like wind turbines, other wise know as wind farms, that are constructed offshore in areas that receive an abundance of wind year round. Another example is with Morocco, which in February of 2016, unveiled a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert. Just the first phase of the planned project is projected to provide renewable energy to more than a million Moroccans. 

While a million is only a fraction compared to the 318.4 million U.S population (2014 census) at least that is a start. Instead of allowing coal miners to once again pollute the water supply, train coal miners in renewable energy sources so they can transition into a job field that is much more sustainable and less detrimental to our environment. 


Zach Johnson can be reached at or (509) 682-2213.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher or NCW Media as a whole. 

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