Mountaintop Removal Mining Continues Despite Obama's Pledge

The destructive mining practice cannot go on at the expense of Appalachians

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On the campaign trail, President Obama shared his thoughts about mountaintop removal mining:

We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains. We’re tearing up the Appalachian Mountains because of our dependence on fossil fuels … Strip-mining is an environmental disaster … What I want to do is work with experts here in West Virginia to find out what we need to do to protect the waterways here. That’s going to be a primary task of the head of my Environmental Protection Agency.

This, if it happens, would be a sea change from the previous administration’s EPA, which effectively wrote loopholes and exemptions into that law that allowed mining companies to evade longstanding regulations, sidestep basic Clean Water Act protections and dump their mountaintop removal mining waste directly into Appalachia’s waters, contaminating drinking water supplies for communities and burying important streams.

Nearly two years into President Obama’s term, we’ve seen small steps toward reducing the destruction of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, but the fact is: President Obama and his administration are still allowing this devastation to continue. The Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA are still permitting mountaintop removal mining permits in Appalachia, despite the regulations of the Clean Water Act.

The people and waters of Appalachia are not experiencing equal protection under the law. The impact of this is tragic: Their mountains are being torn down, their waters poisoned,; their cancer rates are higher and their children and communities are being threatened by enormous earthen dams of toxic coal sludge.

This weekend, hundreds of Appalachians traveled to Washington, DC, to demand equal protection under the Clean Water Act and call for an end to the devastating practice of mountaintop removal mining. Today, they rallied in front of the White House as a part of the organized Appalachia Rising event, defending their right to clean and healthy water.

While thousands of people from Appalachia and other parts of the country organize in the nation’s capital to save their mountains and waters from the bulldozers and draglines of coal companies, Earthjustice is working within the courts to force the government and these agencies to follow and enforce the law, so that the waters of Appalachia are protected from contamination and the communities can be healthy well into the future.

For more on Earthjustice and our work to stop mountaintop removal mining, watch this three-minute video created by Plum TV, featuring Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen and Mari-Lynn Evans, the executive producer of the acclaimed documentary film Coal Country, which Earthjustice helped support.


Liz Judge worked at Earthjustice from 2010–2016. During that time, she worked on mountaintop removal mining, national forests, and clean water issues, and led the media and advocacy communications teams.