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Jared Saylor's blog

The New York Times today reported in the next chapter of their exceptional "Toxic Waters" series that:

"Thousands of the nation's largest water polluters are outside the Clean Water Act's reach because the Supreme Court has left uncertain which waterways are protected by that law, according to interviews with regulators.

"As a result, some businesses are declaring that the law no longer applpies to them. And pollution rates are rising."

I know how crazy this sounds: I love spending time reading through arcane government filings in the Federal Register and on Regulations.gov. I'm fascinated by the volume of it all, and like a modern day miner panning for environmental gold, I sometimes unearth a juicy nugget of information. Today is one of those days.

Coal ash currently stored in ponds across the U.S. could flow continuosly over Niagara Falls for three days straight. The new Dallas Cowboys stadium couldn't hold all the coal ash in those ponds; in fact, you'd need 263 Dallas Cowboys stadiums to hold it all. We'd need to build 738 Empire State buildings to contain it all.

People began filing into the University of Charleston's auditorium nearly two hours before the debate began. Charleston police, county sheriffs, state troopers and UC police lined the hallways and entrances. There were rumors of activists chaining themselves to trees and coal miners planning a huge rally. Television cameras were stationed along the walls and in nearly every corner of the auditorium.

The tension has been building since the date was set last November. Ever since it was announced, skeptics clamored, "There's no way this is actually going to take place. Someone is going to back down." But they underestimated the raw emotion and high-voltage electricty surrounding this epic event.

I'm not talking about the next big boxing match, I'm talking about Thursday's (Jan. 21) debate between environmentalist Bobby Kennedy Jr. and Massey Coal Company chief Don Blankenship!

While it may seem obvious, especially with coal companies completely burying streams and routinely poisoning drinking water supplies, an article in the scientific journal Science shows clear scientific evidence that mountaintop removal mining destroys streams and poisons communities.

I remember my first thought when I read the papers on Dec. 23, the day after one of the biggest environmental disasters in our nation's history: "This is only the beginning."

The stories about the spill came out like the spill itself: slow at first, then in a huge, sudden avalanche of sad details. 5.4 million cubic yards of coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority's Kingston Power Plant burst through a dam near Harriman and spread over 300 acres of pristine shoreline along the Emory and Clinch Rivers.

If you’re wondering what you should be doing on Saturday night, well, here it is: watch some television! At 8 p.m. eastern, the world television premiere of "Coal Country" will be on the Reel Impact series on Planet Green.

Now, about the film. Earthjustice is a proud sponsor of "Coal Country," and we’ve been hosting events in San Francisco, New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles and Chicago to show people this powerful film and educate them on the tragedy that is mountaintop removal mining.

There’s been a lot discussed in these pages about the destruction, pollution and impacts of mountaintop removal mining, but never before has there been such an insightful and moving depiction. "Coal Country" interviews miners, activists, politicians and coalfield residents to present the true impacts of coal in Appalachia. Phylis Geller—who wrote, produced and directed the film—and executive producer Mari-Lynn Evans weave a story that really gets at the true costs of our dependence on coal.

Take the time to watch "Coal Country" on Planet Green this Saturday night. If you don’t have Planet Green in your cable package, you can purchase a copy of the DVD here. And for those not in the eastern time zone, the film is being replayed at 11 p.m. eastern, so you can watch it during prime time.

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