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.
Court Document: Amicus Brief on Behalf of Community Groups in Support of EPA Veto of Spruce Mountaintop Removal Mine
Court Decision: Federal Appeals Court Upholds EPA Efforts To Protect Appalachian Waters and Communities
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.
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.