Saturday, September 12, 2009

Thank you, Lisa Jackson!

Not only has the EPA under Lisa Jackson's guidance stopped Mountaintop removal at one site in West Viginia as reported in the previous post, but all 79 permits submitted by the Army Corps of Engineers have been returned, stamped Likely to violate the Clean Water Act. According to the Sierra Club newsletter I received today, this is not necessarily the end of MTR.
Now the Army Corps has 60 days to review and revise their proposals, and we expect coal companies to spend this time pulling out all the stops in attacks on the EPA. King Coal will say and do anything they can to get away with as they try to reverse this decision.

Friday's announcement is a stark reminder that the coal industry is the beneficiary of loopholes that no other industry enjoys. It is time to close these loopholes, protect public health, and return the rule of law not just to Appalachia, but to all of America. It's time to end the hideous practice of mountaintop removal coal mining once and for all.
They ask that you send a note of thanks to Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA, but ask her to work toward laws that will forbid this entirely.

If you'd like to read more about this decision, try Jeff Bigger's article in the Nation Magazine: EPA Turns the Lights on Mountaintop Removal that reminds us that these reversals are just related to Clear Water Act issues, not life-style, community, and nature preservation. That will take entirely different laws, which, according to the article, are slowly working their way through Congress.

The news came as a bit of a surprise to some coalfield activists. "Since January we've been skeptical about how serious the new administration would be about addressing mountaintop removal," said Teri Blanton of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, a citizens' organization in the state where more than half of the designated permits are located. "It looks like EPA is prepared to do everything it can, within the existing regulatory framework, to protect the mountains and people of Appalachia. This is great news, but it will take more than regulations to end the destruction. Mountaintop removal and valley fills should be banned."

Many activists welcomed the announcement but, like Blanton, pledged to keep pushing legislators until the practice is abolished. Judy Bonds, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch, said, "We will continue our fight for a total, complete reprieve for our children and for our beloved mountains and streams."

So we can't relax yet, but at least we know that these 79 mountains can breathe easier for a while longer.

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