UPDATE: There was a lot of confusion and misinterpretation about Tuesday’s announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency that it was reviewing mountaintop removal mining permits to assess their potential impact on the waterways and people of Appalachia. Only two permits have been questioned. Dozens are under review. And the EPA is signalling that many of those may not be held up for environmental reasons.
This is nonetheless a first step towards what we have been petitioning — and suing — to have the federal government do. Just this month, nearly 25,000 Earthjustice supporters, along with many others across the nation, sent messages to the White House asking for a halt to this most-devastating method of coal mining.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson promised to take a critical review of mountaintop removal, expressing her concern about how this mining practice, among others, is harming water quality. She detailed her concerns in letters to the Army Corps of Engineers, which issues the permits.
In the words of our attorney Jennifer Chavez, "This is a victory for the people of Appalachia and for one of the must fundamental goals of the Clean Water Act: to prevent our entire nation’s rivers, streams and lakes from being used as waste dumps." It’s also a big boost for environmentalists, who suffered a big loss recently when a federal court ruled against their attempt to keep mining activities away from streams.
At least 2,000 miles of creeks and streams already have been buried with the rubble of moutaintop removal mining, and if the pending permits were issued, there would be further destruction of 432 valleys and 213 miles of streams in Kentucky and West Virginia alone.
We still have a long way to go before entirely ending mountaintop removal. We must keep pressuring the Obama administration to move in that direction.