The environmental price tag on a ton of mountaintop removal coal.

Published

Journal Article

While several thousand square kilometers of land area have been subject to surface mining in the Central Appalachians, no reliable estimate exists for how much coal is produced per unit landscape disturbance. We provide this estimate using regional satellite-derived mine delineations and historical county-level coal production data for the period 1985-2005, and further relate the aerial extent of mining disturbance to stream impairment and loss of ecosystem carbon sequestration potential. To meet current US coal demands, an area the size of Washington DC would need to be mined every 81 days. A one-year supply of coal would result in ∼2,300 km of stream impairment and a loss of ecosystem carbon sequestration capacity comparable to the global warming potential of >33,000 US homes. For the first time, the environmental impacts of surface coal mining can be directly scaled with coal production rates.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Lutz, BD; Bernhardt, ES; Schlesinger, WH

Published Date

  • January 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 8 / 9

Start / End Page

  • e73203 -

PubMed ID

  • 24039888

Pubmed Central ID

  • 24039888

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0073203

Language

  • eng