Northeastern Section - 42nd Annual Meeting (12–14 March 2007)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM


SAVAGE, E. Lynn, Geology, CUNY/Brooklyn College, 2900 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY, NY 11210 and WOODFORK, Larry D., Consulting Geologist, 652 Villa Place, Morgantown, WV 26505,

Mining for energy mainly involves oil shale, expanding tar sand use, coal and radioactive deposits. However, the greatest and growing number, and varieties of environmental impacts (household, workplace, community, regional, global) (Holdren and Smith 2000), and health insults can be attributed increasingly to coal (23% of global energy source) but less to other fossil fuels. Radioactive energy pollution causes long lasting extreme health effects, but over more proscribed areas, albeit for far more time, even permanently.

Emissions from burning coal depend on kind (most from peat, lignite and bituminous coals), include CO2, CO, SO2, NO2, methane, PAH, As, Hg, Cd, Pb, Fl, Se, and particulates, etc. One third of U.S. Hg is from its coal-fired power plants (Goodell 2006). Bioaccumulated Hg, some from other sources, also are part of fish Hg body burdens.

In developing countries, (e.g. China and India), household exposure to toxic smoke in unventilated spaces by women and children, result in tuberculosis, lung cancer, bronchitis, and millions of deaths.

Surface and underground mining exposes 1% of global workforce to accidental death and confined space toxic emissions.

Surface mining damage affects communities. Regional effects from fine particulates, ozone, NO2, SO2, cause acid rain and global warming, soil, lake and forest damage. Releases of toxic Al and Hg, in non-carbonate areas, may result in neurological diseases.

Greenhouse gas emissions from coal use increased global warming exponentially in the late 1990's, 2005 now the worst year (Gore 2006). Looming effects include threats to the Ocean Conveyor Belt, changing north Atlantic Ocean pH as Greenland and Arctic ice melts, northward ecological changes drawing infectious and insect diseases into temperate latitudes, and sea level rise with increased severe coastal hurricanes.

Emerging Chinese and Indian economic growth using inefficient methods and polluting bituminous coal, has resulted in dark plumes of toxic smoke effluent being blown across Asia to Japan and even the United States. Asian use of coal is expected to grow from 2.73 tons in 2003 to 5.86 tons by 2025 will increase global warming and acid rain consequences. So far, China is putting cheap energy before global environmental concerns (Bradsher and Barboza 2006).