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mountaintop removal

“The battle to restore a proper relationship between man and his environment, and between man and other living creatures, will require a long sustained political, moral, ethical, and financial commitment far beyond any commitment ever made by any society in the history of man. Are we able? Yes. Are we willing? That’s the unanswered question.” – Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day.

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.

<Update: Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced that he will introduce legislation that provides the same protections on federal lands in Montana that British Columbia has agreed to.> Canada's portion of the Flathead Valley—a dazzling part of wilderness known as the "Crown of the Continent"—has been saved from the kind of mineral development that is destroying many parts of the United States.

Some top stories from the past week at Earthjustice…

One result of burning coal is lots and lots of toxic coal ash. It's stored in hundreds of ponds across the U.S., and it can flood and devastate entire communities. Yesterday, Earthjustice joined more than 100 environmental groups in a Day of Action, urging the White House to finally call coal ash what it is: hazardous waste.

A heated debate over mountaintop removal coal mining last week drew huge crowds. The competitors: Don Blankenship, CEO of coal giant Massey Energy, and Waterkeeper founder Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. The reporter: Earthjustice Campaigns Director, Jared Saylor. The victor: Decide for yourself!

The same Massey Energy is one of several industry groups asking a federal appeals court to review (aka do away with) the EPA Clean Air Act endangerment finding. In defense of the finding, 16 states and New York City filed a motion last week to intervene in the case.

Glacier National Park is nearly 100 years old, and Monday Reads introduces us to a truly incredible photography project in celebration of its centennial birthday. Right next door on the U.S.-Canadian border lives the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, now threatened by mining plans in the nearby Flathead Valley. But there was hopeful news last week: Earthjustice encouraged an investigation that has resulted in a recommendation of a moratorium on mining and a conservation plan for this essential region.

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.

Last year, the U.S. government started taking environmental protection seriously again, but as 2010 dawns, we continue to see political and economic interests preventing or stalling critical environmental solutions.

In the face of this opposition, this year Earthjustice is targeting key issues with our legal and advocacy work. Our focus is on three core priorities: building a clean energy future, protecting our natural heritage, and safeguarding our health.

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!

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About the Earthjustice Blog

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.