“They are going forward as if the permit hadn’t been denied.” –Jimmy Weekley
In the struggle to end mountain top removal, we don’t often have occasions to celebrate, so the December 18th announcement that the Environmental Protection Agency had vetoed the permit for the Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia was reason to pop the champagne corks. After all, this was the largest mountain top removal operation ever approved by the EPA, covering an area larger than Pittsburgh. And it seemed to signal a sea change for the way the EPA does business. Up until then the EPA had approved every mine permit that they reviewed since 1972, when the agency was created to enforce the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other laws passed by Congress in the wake of the Santa Barbara oil spill, the Cuyahoga River fire and a slew of other environmental disasters that had captured the nation’s attention during the turbulent 1960s.
Certainly if you were reading the headlines, checking your e-mail, or getting the numerous fund raising appeals from well meaning environmental groups claiming victory you would be right to believe that here was a victory grasped from the jaws of defeat, a testament of the strength of our movement and our ability pressure the government to enforce the laws. It was the death of mountain top removal.
Our Friends from Rainforest Action Network staged a sit-in this morning at EPA Headquarters, where activists occupied the lobby and used metal lock boxes to lock themselves together. The sit-in was to bring attention to EPA’s newly approved Pine Creek mountaintop removal permit in Logan County, West Virginia. This was a horrendous first decision,after last April it was anticipated that the EPA was going to be enforcing stricter MTR guidelines.
Photo by Chris Eichler Copyright Rainforest Action Network
Much-Lauded Strict Mountaintop Mining Guidelines Not So Strict
EPA’s First Decision Under New Mountaintop Mining Guidelines is to Approve Coal Permit; Permit Would Create Three New Valley Fills
SAN FRANCISCO– Just last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave the Army Corps of Engineers a green light for the Pine Creek mine permit, a mountaintop removal (MTR) mining site in Logan County, W.Va. This is the first permit decision the EPA has issued under the new mountaintop mining guidelines, which came out last April and were anticipated to provide tougher oversight of mountaintop removal coal mining.
The new MTR guidelines were understood to provide greater protection for headwater streams by curbing the practice of dumping waste in neighboring valleys to create what is known as valley fills. The Pine Creek permit is the first test of these guidelines, and green lights three new valley fills (each over 40 acres large). It was anticipated that these guidelines, by requiring mining operators to control levels of toxins in nearby streams, would significantly reduce the dumping of mining waste in valleys, which the EPA said was scientifically proven to contaminate drinking water and wreck ecosystems.