Appalachia’s mountains never seem to get a break. First, back in 2007, a district court judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit we brought on behalf of some West Virginia groups that stopped five mountaintop removal mining permits from going forward because of the permanent destruction they would have done to Appalachian streams and headwaters. It was a short-lived victory: the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision and the permits were moving forward again.
But then, the Obama EPA said it was going to review a slew of pending mountaintop removal mining permits that were awaiting the outcome of the court decision, and all were optimistic that the agency would put a halt on them and help prevent further stream and mountaintop destruction from happening. Appalachian groups hailed this decision, but again, victory was short-lived: just this month, the EPA said that despite having reviewed the permits (and despite mountaintop removal mining completely flattening entire mountain ranges and completely burying streams and headwaters) it was going to let 42 mountaintop removal mining permits proceed.
The agency, in correspondence with West Virginia Congressman Nick Rahall, said that it won’t raise any environmental objections to 42 pending permits, despite severe and irreversible impacts to water quality in Appalachia. Joan Mulhern, our senior legislative counsel in Washington DC said it best:
EPA has claimed that it will follow the law and science, but announcing they have no concerns about 42 pending mountaintop removal mining permits is a sign that they are following neither. There is no such thing as “good” mountaintop removal. Simply put, mountaintop removal is nothing but bad. The EPA seems to flying in the face of the sound science President Obama vowed to restore to government. This looks more like politics as usual on mountaintop removal, primarily designed to appease Big Coal. We call on the Obama administration to ensure that sound science and clean water, not Big Coal, guide these decisions that so dramatically impact people’s lives and Appalachia’s streams and mountains.