King Coal can't reign over southwestern Pa.

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I would like to thank the editorial board for its Aug. 6 editorial "Coal Barons: GOP Lawmakers Try to Turn Back the Hands of Time." The editors did a wonderful job highlighting how this region must no longer view coal as king. Instead of glorifying the past, it is absolutely essential that we look to the future and work toward creative solutions for a diversified economy and a healthy environment.

There is no denying that coal is our past, but we must also accept that it is not our future. Even large coal companies like Consol are selling off coal reserves and looking to other economic drivers to support their businesses, not because of existing or proposed environmental regulation, but because of low market demand. Instead of looking for someone to blame, we must come together to address the challenge of transitioning a coal-dependent workforce and diversifying the single-source economies of coal-reliant counties such as our neighbor to the south, Greene County.

Not only will a transition away from coal result in a healthier local economy that is not tied to one destructive industry alone, it will result in better human and environmental health. As illustrated in the Post-Gazette's 2010 "Mapping Mortality" series, we are a region at risk from the harmful air impacts of processing and burning coal. In addition, the lifecycle of coal (extraction, processing, combustion and waste disposal) results in the degradation of local rivers and streams, farmland and private water supplies. The more we can do to avoid these impacts, the brighter the future will be.

Chair, Mining Issues Committee
Allegheny Group, Sierra Club



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