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Appalachia has supplied coal to the rest of the United States for centuries.

In Pennsylvania, a lawsuit involving the Bailey Mine Complex—an underground mine the size of Manhattan—will help determine whether coal interests continue to dominate.

“Those are coyote tracks,” she called over the engine noise, pointing down at a set of fresh paw prints.

At the crest of the ridge, she stopped along a dirt track and scanned in both directions for security guards.

“They don’t get to keep plowing through our communities as if we didn’t matter.”Since the mid-eighteenth century, Appalachia has supplied coal to the rest of the country, in an arrangement that has brought employment but also pollution and disease.

Five hundred feet below the ridgeline lay a slate-colored expanse of sludge: sixty acres of coal waste, which filled the valley floor to a depth of more than a hundred feet.

Coptis stared; it was twice as deep as it had been when she’d visited a year before.

Coptis’s opponents argue that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Recently, on Twitter, an industry organization called Energy Jobs Matter taunted Coptis: “How much is the Sierra Club paying you to put these families on unemployment?