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Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia

Mountaintop removal is a form of strip mining in which explosives are used to blast off the tops of mountains in order to reach the coal seams that lie underneath.

Mountaintop removal is a form of strip mining in which explosives are used to blast off the tops of mountains in order to reach the coal seams that lie underneath.

Photo courtesy of OVEC

Case Overview

Mountaintop removal coal mining, often described as "strip mining on steroids," is an extremely destructive form of mining that is devastating Appalachia.

In the past few decades, over 2,000 miles of streams and headwaters that provide drinking water for millions of Americans have been permanently buried and destroyed. An area the size of Delaware has been flattened. Local coal field communities routinely face devastating floods and adverse health effects. Natural habitats in some our country's oldest forests are laid to waste.

On behalf of local and national environmental and community groups, Earthjustice has been in the courts and in Congress to bring the protections of the Clean Water Act to the people, communities and waters of Appalachia.

Related Features

What Is Mountaintop Removal Mining?

Learn about this destructive process and how it affects communities throughout Coal Country, and see what Earthjustice and its allies are doing to stop mountaintop removal mining and protect the countryside and its waters.

Case Updates

March 25, 2014 | In the News: Nation of Change

Supreme Court Rejects Coal Industry Lawsuit on Mountaintop Removal Mine Permit

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the coal mining industry's case against the Environmental Protection Agency for vetoing the permit of the proposed Spruce. No 1 mine, one of the country's most destructive mountaintop removal mine projects. The court upheld that the EPA has full authority to protect clean water and prevent dumping in waterways whenever it finds unacceptable environmental harms.

July 16, 2013 | In the News: The Fiscal Times

Obama Administration falls short in blunting mountaintop removal

President Obama’s efforts to rein in the coal industry and curb mountaintop removal mining have met with limited success as the mining industry and its allies have systematically stymied executive initiatives intended to check the devastating impacts of the surface mining practice on surrounding communities and wildlife. The EPA did secure a recent victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. upheld the agency’s right to veto mining permits granted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and various state agencies.

June 25, 2013 | In the News: The Houston Chronicle

Feds asked to investigate W.Va. mining oversight

After decades of negligent oversight by West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection, eighteen environmental, civic, and religious groups have filed a joint petition asking the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation to assume control of West Virginia’s regulatory program. Citing a long list of chronic failures—from overlooked violations and insufficient water-quality standards to inconsistent permitting and ineffectual fines—the groups seek to halt the damage taking place on currently mined lands and protect thousands of additional acres at risk.