A Triple Bottom Line Accounting in Coal Mining
University of Connecticut, Master’s of Professional Studies
Humanitarian Services Administration Program (MPS HSA).
The goal of the project is to maximize the benefits of mining coal in a sustainable manner. Although coal is not a renewable resource, coal is an abundant energy resource, and we should use it. “Coal is one of the world’s most plentiful energy resources, and its use is likely to quadruple by 2020”. We inte nd to change the coal business as usual approach focusing only on the “bottom line.” “We need a “triple bottom line” focus on environment, economy and society; however, sustainable development contradicts the way policies have traditionally been formulated and developed” . We plan to change the policies to keep an even keel dealing with the “triple bottom line” approach. All three sustainability areas have to demonstrate a positive development. It is not sufficient if one pillar does so.
The environment is not only on a par with the other two pillars but also the basis of sustainability. However, high level of economic growth can compensate for deterioration in environmental quality. Economic and social development can only take place if fundamental ecological functions are secured and sustainable development cannot be prescribed by law. All stakeholders must contribute to it. The three key tenets of sustainable development of economic growth, environmental protection, and social justice, should be evaluated critically by the community for their relevance to the concept of sustainable development in coal mining and prospects for its implementation. To protect the people we will have town hall meetings to allow all those with an interest to share their views. Ultimately it is the people who will decide whether the benefits of the coal plant outweigh the costs. We will do our best to ensure that residents will not have to complain about the full yellow smoke pouring from the tall chimneys of the next door coal fired power plant, which could leave film on their automobiles and pebbles of coal waste in their back yards. We will install wet scrubbers to clean the plant’s air emissions.
We will meticulously maintain the scrubbers since they have the potential to spread disease-causing bacteria. The problem is a result of inadequate cleaning. For example, the cause of a 2005 outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in Norway was infected scrubbers. The outbreak caused more than 50 cases of infection and 10 deaths. Keeping the scrubbers filthy is an unsustainable practice. Also the stakeholders of water are a concern for the coal plant. Access to a reliable source of water is an essential requirement for coal mines . We intend on saving water by not washing the product through a preparation plant; however, we still need significant quantities for dust management, drilling, human consumption and numerous other uses. Washing the product is an unsustainable practice for water renewal and that should change.In order for our operation to maintain the environment and protect the planet, we will take precautionary measures to mitigate externalities.
We will be as sustainable as the word ’sustainability’ was originally used at the beginning of the 18th century due to the continued existence of silver mining . We will consider the environmental damage from coal mining or the pollution of rivers with chemicals. “The main impacts of surface mining are, in general, massive disturbances of large areas of land and possible disruption of surface and groundwater patterns” . Rather than mine coal in open pits, we will use newer technologytaken from Russia and dig a deep production well in which it sticks an industrialized cigar lighter. This ignites the coal still locked in subterranean seams. “The coal then turns into a synthetic gas, which gets drawn to the surface through another well” . The former is less expensive than the latter, but the externalities are more internalized. We will include a mining plan, mine closure and restoration plan. These plans will define the sequence and nature of extraction operations and detail the methods to be used in closure and restoration. The plans will be updated every 3 to 5 years as mining progresses. The plan will include the removal and proper storage of topsoil. We will focus on consumption of energy as Sudarkodi points out. There is no doubt that we need energy to produce food, clean water and keep us warm; yet, “That consumption growth is depleting renewable and mineral resources, and causing irreversible damage to the environment” . Because “Price incentives, awareness rising, and voluntary agreements with industry are not enough to achieve the scale or pace of consumption change needed to move towards a sustainable society,” we will mandate limits of production per capita to ensure not over using our resources in an unsustainable manner.
Any Coal Combustion Products (CCPs) including fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulphurization gypsum will be recycled and those that are not will not be buried near water supplies. We will not risk the health of the population by destroying the environment, nor will we risk the civil liability. It is noted that “a judge approved a $54 million class-action settlement against Constellation Power Generation after it had dumped coal ash for more than a decade…contaminating wells.” Even though “state requirements for the handling of coal ash vary widely,” we will take full voluntary precaution necessary. Alabama does not regulate CCPs, except a federally required water discharge permits. “In Texas, the vast majority of coal ash is not considered a solid waste, according to a review of state regulations by environmental groups” . Furthermore, the EPA does not regulate Coal Combustion Products (CCPs) as a hazardous waste.
The EPA states that Fossil fuel combustion (FFC) such as coal, oil, and natural gas, including all ash, slag, and particulates removed from flue gas, are “categorized as a ‘special waste’ and have been exempted from federal hazardous waste regulations under Subtitle C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)” . We will take the more precaution than is required and voluntary join EPA’s C2P2 program. Under the C2P2 program, we will recycle Coal Combustion Products (CCPs). According to the EPA, we can “reduce adverse effects on air and land by increasing the use of coal combustion products to 45 percent in 2011 from 31 percent in 2001.” Furthermore an “increase the use of CCPs as a supplementary cementations material (SCM) in concrete by 50 percent, from 12.4 million tons in 2001 to 18.6 million tons in 2011, thereby decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from avoided cement manufacturing by approximately 5 million tons each year.”
The EPA states that the environmental benefits of such recycling the byproducts can include “reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced land disposal requirements, and reduced utilization of virgin resources.” Economic benefits can include “reduced costs associated with coal ash and slag disposal, increased revenue from the sale of CCPs, and savings from using CCPs in place of other, more costly materials.” And finally the performance benefits can “result from the physical and chemical characteristics of CCPs and include greater resistance to chemical attack, increased strength, and improved workability. For instance, high fly ash-content concrete can be used for high performance, long-life pavements which are designed to last 50 years – twice the lifetime of conventional pavements” .
Even though this is not the “bottom line” approach, but rather the“triple bottom line” approach,”our major goal is still profit for the community. We will follow the Kuznets theory that sustainability will take care of itself as profit is created . It is noted that early stages of economic development often lead to increases in environmental degradation. What is known as the “environmental Kuznets curve,” presents an early hazard to poverty alleviation with respect to environmental degradation. However, in the future evidence exists of an inverted U pattern with respect to household income and some forms of environmental degradation . For example, tropical forest clearing in Peru´ has been shown to increase initially with household income; this degradation is attributed to a household preference for the creation of new farmland with additional capital. With further increases in income, however, fertilizer purchases and more intensive farming techniques lead to decreased land clearing . In order for us to access sustainable development, we are motivated by a conclusion that the necessary conditions include economic growth and good governance. We believe in the governance ability of the public to make informed decisions on their environment weighing the profit. We intend to be transparent in our financial obligations to the community and our workers. We concur with the UN when they state “transparency through triple-bottom line accounting and …regulatory standards are key policy options for creating incentives and level playing fields…” We conclude that the town hall meeting evaluating the profit, people and the planet is necessary to decide whether the benefits are worth the cost. As the UN put it, “effective environmental governance depends on a well-functioning executive, legislature and judiciary, as well as participation by all stakeholders, including the electorate, civil society and the private sector” .
In conclusion, science may offer us guidance in how to influence the direction of a complex system like the interwoven social, economic, and ecological systems that comprise our environment. To operate a coal plant in a sustainable manner takes enormous effort. A coal plant can create much waste and pollution and harm the environment and the people, but it also can create much needed energy and provide good wage jobs. The goal here is to mitigate the externalities while increasing profit for the people in the community. The profit aspect of the bottom line approach is easier to maintain than the environmental; however in order to protect the planet and the people, many costly precautions need to take place.
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