Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES) was formed to address the environmental impacts of the discovery, development, production, and use of energy resources in Appalachia.

In the early 2000s, concerns were raised about the impact of Appalachian coal mining, especially mountaintop mining. These concerns were prompted by various research studies that alleged a direct link between coal mining and various negatively trending aspects of community health. Some studies related coal mining to higher rates of cancer and infant mortality. Other investigations claimed that coal mining perpetuated poverty and harms community character. These alarming reports prompted a significant public outcry that resulted in litigation and regulatory attention toward the coal industry.

In response, a number of meetings and strategic sessions were held in 2009 and 2010 to address these concerns. Major Appalachian coal producers, coal associations, and essential coal infrastructure companies participated in these conferences. After rigorous debate, the participants decided to form an independent research program designed to address community concerns through objective, focused research. This program was designated the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES). ARIES would be a research consortium that elicited the participation of major research universities across the U.S. The primary objective of this research collaboration would be to investigate the impacts of coal mining and energy production on Appalachian communities. To support this goal, ARIES adopted a research paradigm that delivered objective, robust, and transparent results though the support of industry. This paradigm was composed of four core principles:

•           Independent research conducted at universities

•           Wide dissemination of results through peer-                          reviewed publications

•           Realistic timeframes for research and reporting

•           Applying sound scientific principles

The Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research (VCCER) at Virginia Tech was tasked to lead and develop ARIES to ensure transparency, independence, and diverse involvement. Upon inception, ARIES was financially supported by a multi-year commitment from industrial affiliate partners. These partners were Alpha Natural Resources, International Coal Group, Massey Energy, Natural Resource Partners, TECO Coal Corporation, Patriot Coal Corporation, Cliffs Natural Resources, Mepco, CSX Corporation, and Norfolk Southern. The resulting grant of $15 million was established by these affiliates to fund the ARIES program over the first five years. The ARIES program was announced publically on March 31, 2011. The announcement received immediate support from State governments including direct endorsements by the governors of five Appalachian states.

ARIES research encompassed four topic area categories, which were 1) Impacts on Ecosystems, 2) Waste and Water Management, 3) Environmentally Responsible Mining Technology, and 4) Health, Social and Economic Impacts. Research institutions that participated in ARIES included Virginia Tech, West Virginia University, Marshall University, University of Kentucky, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, Consultants in Epidemiology and Occupational Health, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Virginia at Wise, and St. Francis University in Pennsylvania. Since 2011, ARIES researchers have produced nearly 100 peer-reviewed publications in addition to numerous conference presentations and papers. The research involved more than 60 academic researchers and 70 student researchers.

ARIES is a research consortium with major research centers in Appalachia participating:

Official Virginia Tech logo with maroon background
West Virginia University
Marshall University logo
University of Kentucky logo
The Ohio State University logo
University of Pittsburgh Logo
Penn State Logo
UVA Wise logo

and consultants in Epidemiology and Occupational Health (which includes faculty from Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University). It is managed by Virginia Tech at the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research.

Governors’ Support

Governor's support letter

Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science Most Recent Commissioned Report

Reevaluation of the Impact of Coal Mining on the Virginia State Budget

To download ARIES‘ most recent sponsored report on the economics of coal in the State of Virginia by the Ohio State University professors of Economics Michael D. Farren and Mark D. Partridgeclick here

Here is a link to recent press about this report:

On Social Media

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