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Clean Water Act

At the end of this month, all eyes will be on the EPA as it makes its next key decision on mountaintop removal coal mining: its preliminary determination whether to veto the permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine, due September 24.

The Spruce No. 1 mine is one of the largest mountaintop removal mining projects ever considered in Appalachia. Last spring, the EPA released a proposal to rescind this permit based on scientific and legal analysis showing that the mine does not adhere to Clean Water Act standards.

Tomorrow (July 22), Don Blankenship, the notorious chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, speaks at the National Press Club. We'll be live blogging to make sure you all get the play-by-play -- which promises to be interesting at the very least if Blankenship's previous speaking engagements are any indicator (we live-blogged at his public debate with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in January in Charleston, WV -- check it out here).

In Appalachia, moving mountains is easy. What's hard is keeping them where they are. Coal companies have used dynamite's muscle to blast hundreds of the earth's oldest summits into neighboring valleys, permanently altering the landscape. But two recent developments are shaking the foundations of mountaintop removal mining, signaling that perhaps, at long last, what's moving is the mountain of science and law that compels the end of this destructive practice.

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."

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.

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

It’s a rainy week here in Oakland, as a storm system bestows California with some much-needed H2O. Our short supply of water has meant trouble for salmon. A new video by Salmon Water Now illuminates startling alliances between big agribusiness and the political interests controlling water and the fate of salmon in the San Francisco Bay Delta.

A wholly different marine creature in peril will get some help at last. The NMFS announced it will take measures to protect false killer whales from the commercial longline fishing industry, following years of Earthjustice litigation. Rarely seen by humans, false killer whales are close relations of dolphins.

Mercury pollution is a big problem for aquatic life (and people who eat fish), and a lot of it comes from medical waste incinerators. In September, the EPA set groundbreaking rules that significantly reduce air pollution from this source, but now these rules are being challenged in court. Earthjustice has intervened in the lawsuit.

And, the toxic green slime clogging Florida’s waterways might finally loosen its hold, thanks to a historic first step by the EPA to limit fertilizer, animal waste and sewage pollution in the state. While the proposed limits aren’t as stringent as they could be, they’re a big improvement.

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unEARTHED is a forum for the voices and stories of the people behind Earthjustice's work. The views and opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the opinion or position of Earthjustice or its board, clients, or funders. Learn more about Earthjustice.