White House Announcement on Mountaintop Removal Does Little to Stop Destruction

Federal agencies hide behind misinterpretation of the law to allow mountaintop removal to continue


Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 237

The following statement is from Joan Mulhern, Senior Legislative Counsel at Earthjustice regarding the Council on Environmental Quality’s announcement on the future of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia:

“What the administration is proposing today is essentially rearranging the bureaucratic deck chairs on the disastrous ship that is mountaintop removal. They announced new processes for interagency coordination and the potential to review regulations, but no substantive policies to actually stop the destruction caused by mountaintop removal.

“The real questions for the administration are these: will they stop the destruction caused by mountaintop removal or not? Will they follow the Bush administration’s policies of allowing enormous piles of waste to be dumped into streams, forever burying them, or not?

“While the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency have talked a good game about reviewing and, we hope, eventually ending mountaintop removal mining, their actions today are not supporting those words. In fact, the agencies are saying today that they are going to allow mountaintop removal to continue.

“Until the White House announces that it will stop the blowing up of mountains and burying of streams, we cannot support their policies, regardless of what process is used to review the mines on a case by case basis.

“CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley’s statement today is that the administration is doing what it can on mountaintop removal under current law and regulations. But these are regulations changed by the Bush administration in an attempt to legalize a practice that is contrary to the Clean Water Act. The Obama administration could easily change the regulations back to restore longstanding prohibitions on burying streams and rivers with waste, but they seem to be hiding behind an excuse that their hands are tied. It is simply incorrect for the White House to imply that it is powerless to change the law. If the Clean Water Act were enforced, it would prohibit this type of stream destruction.

“We are disappointed that the people of Appalachia and their community watersheds will continue to be the sacrificial lamb for our nation’s dependence on coal. Despite the strength of the Clean Water Act and the clear direction that perennial and intermittent streams cannot be buried and destroyed, mountaintop removal mining will continue unabated. The valleys, streams, forests, mountains and communities of Appalachia are facing a bleak future indeed.

“We hope that at some point soon the Obama administration will actually do something to stop mountaintop removal before more of Appalachia is permanently destroyed.”

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