Despite EPA Veto, Mountaintop Removal Continues at West Virginia’s Largest Surface Mine
The Spruce No. 1 mine is perhaps most famous for being the first and only mine in history to have its US Army Corps of Engineers 404 permit vetoed by the US Environmental Protection Agency over violations of the Clean Water Act. If constructed, it would be the largest mountaintop removal mine in Appalachia, spanning 3,113 acres and creating six valley fills that would permanently fill six miles of streams, and directly impact more than ten miles of streams.The EPA’s landmark decision was hailed by environmentalists as a great victory, and as a signal that the EPA would use it’s authority under the Clean Water Act to end the illegal practice of burying streams under hundreds of feet of mining spoils. Yet since 2007, the Spruce No. 1 mine has produced 1.58 million tons of coal and employed an annual average of 24 miners, and to those who live below the mine it seems as if Arch Coal is acting like the permit was never vetoed at all.
On Sunday, February 20th, Climate Ground Zero’s investigative team went to the Spruce No. 1 mine in Logan County, West Virginia to do a citizens’ site inspection. Here is what we saw.
All Photographs (c) Antrim Caskey, 2011
“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.
CONTACT: MIKE O’CONNELL
919-218-5792 / firstname.lastname@example.org
CONCERT FUNDS REPLACEMENT OF TOXIC SCHOOL, PROMOTES CLEAN ENERGY
Pittsboro, NC – Spending a summer weekend listening to music will help to ensure a safe school for hundreds of children. How? The Mountain Aid concert June 19-20, 2009 at Shakori Hills Farm in Chatham County, NC benefits Pennies of Promise, a grassroots campaign to construct a new building for Marsh Fork Elementary School in West Virginia.
Tucked into the heart of Appalachia, Marsh Fork Elementary sits in the shadow of a Mountain Top Removal coal mine, just 225 feet from the coal silo and 400 yards downstream from a leaking dam holding back nearly three billion gallons of toxic sludge. Independent tests prove coal dust contaminates Marsh Fork Elementary, a direct threat to the children’s respiratory health. Grandfather Ed Wiley began Pennies of Promise after his granddaughter got sick and West Virginia leaders told him the state could not afford a new school in a safer location. The goal? Raise eight million dollars and create a healthy future for the children of Appalachia. That’s where Mountain Aid comes in.
Grammy-winning singer and songwriter and West Virginia native Kathy Mattea will emcee and headline Mountain Aid. “Hosting Mountain Aid is the best way I can think of to spend my 50th birthday. I love these mountains, and to celebrate them and unite with others who love them, through music, is a great opportunity,” Mattea says. Other performers include Ben Sollee, named one of NPR’s “Top Ten Unknown Artists” of the year for 2007; American music icon Donna the Buffalo; and roots rockers the Sim Redmond Band.
Advance tickets for Mountain Aid are on sale now for $22.50 ($30 at the gate). On-site camping, food and craft vendors will be available. For more details, visit www.mtnaid.com.
Why hold Mountain Aid in North Carolina? According to Duke Energy, North Carolina is the number two consumer of Mountain Top Removal coal in the country. Additionally, a bill before North Carolina lawmakers would ban the use of Mountain Top Removal coal in the state. Mountain Aid organizers hope both to raise funds for Pennies of Promise and to create awareness and support for clean energy.
Mountain Top Removal mining, the practice that causes the environmental harm in and around Marsh Fork Elementary, is the subject of the award-winning documentary, “Mountain Top Removal,” directed by Michael O’Connell.
“Mountain Top Removal” has played film festivals domestically and internationally and won the Reel Current award selected and presented by Vice President Al Gore at the 2008 Nashville Film Festival. In conjunction with Mountain Aid, the film will screen on June 19 at 7:30 p.m. at the Carolina Theatre in Durham.
Mountain Aid thanks our generous sponsors Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Coal River Mountain Watch.