The EPA Releases New Guidance on Mountaintop Removal

Written by Amanda Starbuck

Topics: Coal

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today a major new guidance document that provides the coal industry and coal-state regulators with “clarity” regarding the permitting of mountaintop removal coal mining. This comes just days after the EPA blocked the Clean Water Act permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, the largest mountaintop removal permit in West Virginia history.

You can read their full guidance notice here

And their news announcement here

After months of steps, the EPA has finally taken a leap to protect America’s mountains and drinking water from mountaintop removal coal mining. This is a clear response to resounding public opposition to the devastating mining practice.

The EPA is finally flexing its full authority under the clean water act to curtail valley fills and protect the health of our waterways from irreversible damage. Coal operators and state mining regulators will have to contend with this rigorous mandate.

The EPA has confirmed what science tells us, that mountaintop removal is harming water resources and public health in real and measurable ways, which is why these new guidelines should apply to existing mining permits not just new ones.

Today’s announcement has met with positive response from coalfield community members.

“Appalachia thanks Lisa Jackson and the EPA for taking the impacts on human health and environmental justice into consideration when issuing permits,” said Judy Bonds of Coal River Mountain Watch in West Virginia.

“Our 13,000 members are pleased that their pleas and prayers are being heard – the grandmothers and grandchildren I work with are seeing a new spark of hope today,” said Ann League of Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment in Tennessee.

“While there is much good news for us today, we also wonder — will this help save the community of Twilight in Boone County, WV and so many other communities that are in the mountaintop removal cross hairs? The safety of these communities depends on how these guidelines and laws are enforced,” said Vivian Stockman, with the Huntington, West Virginia based Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

Moving forward, we urge the EPA to take holistic measures to end this devastating practice once and for all. We cannot end mountaintop removal coal mining pollution without ending mountaintop removal all together. To be clear, this is a strong step in mitigating the impacts of mountaintop removal, but the only way to protect America’s mountains, water and communities is to abolish the practice. The EPA has and must use its authority under the clean water act to stop this devastating practice.

5 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Payton says:

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

  2. Bill Wolfe says:

    This is Guidance, not regualtion, so it is not enforceable.

    If EPA were serious, then would propose/adopt regulations.

    You are being played, people.

  3. Amanda says:

    Payton: We’ve added some analysis of the announcement here
    http://understory.ran.org/2010/04/01/epa-lays-down-the-law-announces-strict-enforcement-of-clean-water-act/

    Bill: You are correct, this is guidance. However, it will be the guidance that the EPA itself follows when considering new permit applications. I think this is a good assessment of ‘what happens now’ by Ken Ward from the Charleston Gazette:
    http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/2010/04/02/mountaintop-removal-clarity-ok-so-now-what/

  4. kevin ray says:

    There are 1000′s of people employed in WV in the coal mining industry. If advances in clean water will be had a free market company will provide it and it will be cost effective and affordable. The EPA needs to be aboloished completely. They create NOTHING but regulations that cost jobs while tax dollars from those with real jobs pay them.

  5. Debra Greenberg says:

    We have known for decades that removing the top of mountains is environmental disaster. We don’t have a spare Earth. Let’s be a bit more careful with this one…

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. EPA Uses Science, Health and Environmental Justice to Guide New Rules on Mountaintop Removal « It’s Getting Hot In Here
  2. The Understory » EPA lays down the law: announces strict enforcement of Clean Water Act
  3. The Understory » Citizen Watch Over Appalachia
  4. The Understory » Rainforest Action Network Victories: Top Ten of 2010

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