Coal-fired utility plants and miners in Appalachia are taking new efforts to improve conservation outcomes in Kentucky, and they’re doing it completely voluntarily. I repeat: voluntarily, meaning without ever-present threats from the federal government.
Reflecting the importance of Kentucky’s rolling hills and waterways to denizens of the commonwealth, the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation has taken steps to draft certifiable mining and reclamation standards which coal companies can sign on to, not only to protect local ecosystems, but also to improve their reputation with customers, investors, and shareholders – a shrewd market maneuver. Much like a stamp of approval or positive review from a neutral ratings agency, certification from the AWF will alert customers and investors that the mining or utility company in question is a true steward of Kentucky’s environment.
According to David Ledford of the AWF,
“We want to give companies that adhere to these standards a competitive edge as coal suppliers. Investors and shareholders are showing up at utility company meetings and questioning their environmental performance, and they’re questioning some of these utilities on where are you buying your coal and are you buying it from the good performers. So the customer is asking about the ecological quality of the product he is buying and financing. It’s starting to create some market forces regarding ecological performance.”
How refreshing it is for someone concerned with Kentucky’s ecosystems to turn to market forces instead of the compulsory, arbitrary, and costly forces of federal bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency.
And the effort looks like it’s set to be a success as major utility and coal companies have already signed on, including Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal, American Electric Power, and Duke Energy.
These efforts are none too early either as the EPA continues to put sound Appalachian businesses out of work. Just this past month, Joy Global laid off 150 workers at its Millersburg, KY plant which produces mining equipment, and James River Coal Company idled five mines in Kentucky and West Virginia. As a result of the EPA’s successful efforts to put coal miners out of work, the feds are funneling $5 million to eastern Kentucky to pay for job training for these displaced workers.
That reminds me of a quote from libertarian Harry Browne: “Government is good at only one thing. It knows how to break your legs, hand you a crutch, and say, ‘See if it weren’t for the government, you couldn’t walk.'”
Efforts like those from the AWF are a great means to provide hurting Kentuckians a crutch without first breaking their legs.