Coal mining, preparation, and use, has environmental consequences. A long history of mining without regard to environmental consequences led to an unfortunate legacy of sediment-laden streams and rust-colored water in many parts of the United States. Public concern about industrial pollution (including coal mining, preparation, and use) led to a series of Federal Regulations in the 1970s including the Clean Air Act (1970; amended in 1977 and 1990), Clean Water Act (1972; amended in 1977), and the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (1977). Since these regulations were enacted, a wide array of technologies and methods for reclaiming past environmental impacts have been developed as have methods for preventing or mitigating similar impacts from modern mining, preparation, and coal use. Research continues on many aspects of coal’s environmental impacts including carbon dioxide emissions.
A good generalized summary of the environmental concerns associated with coal mining, preparation, and use is Coal and the Environment. This 64-page color booklet was printed in the summer of 2006, and is part of the American Geological Institute’s Environmental Awareness Series. The booklet can be ordered from the Kentucky Geological Survey at http://kgs.uky.edu/kgsweb/PubsSearching/orderinginfo.asp, or the American Geological Institute. Supplementary material to the booklet is provided here to aid in your understanding of the environmental impacts associated with coal and how those impacts are prevented or mitigated today.