Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Comprehending the Scale of Mountaintop Removal

Last month, I wrote of proposed federal regulations that would make it even easier for coal companies to destroy the Appalachian landscape using a technique called mountaintop removal.
It is hard to overstate the violence done to the earth by this practice. A recent story in Wired News may help to understand the scale of the damage inflicted on the landscape by mountaintop removal or MTR:
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, MTR destroyed more than 1,200 miles of Appalachia's streams and 7 percent of its forests between 1985 and 2001. Approximately 800 square miles of mountains were leveled. According to the EPA, waste from MTR will bury another 1,000 miles of streams in the next decade.
Isn't there a law against dumping mine waste in waterways?
Activists have fought a losing legal battle against MTR. First they claimed the practice violated Clean Water Act rules against dumping waste in waterways. But in 2002, the Bush administration rewrote or "clarified" the rule, so that MTR debris wouldn't be classified as waste.
In other words, filling in streams with rocks and dirt shouldn't be considered pollution. After all, how can you pollute a stream that has ceased to exist?
The Coal River Mountain Watch is posting updates and alerts about the proposed regulations.
The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition has much more on this practice. The proposed rules can be found here.
Photo: Vivian Stockman, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition


Blogger SimplyGreen said...

Thank you for raising this issue. We need more imagery like this so that we all understand what goes on each time we flip a light switch.

Mountaintop Removal/Valley Fill is the status quo for coal extraction in Appalachia now. There is nothing about wind power and the possibilities of impacts to birds and other creatures that compares to the magnitude and extent of the damage done by Mountaintop removal.

They say that coal is cheap and plentiful. Imagine just how much damage we could do to our nation's streams if we ever really started using coal!

We need new sources of truly clean power. Just relying "on the grid" for our future needs is asking for more of what you depict in this piece on MTR/VF. Until we have a LOT more clean power going into the grid, the grid's power is largely dirty. We should not fall prey to the dangerous mindset of "out-of-sight-out-of-mind"!

Thanks for raising this issue!
Sumner Crosby

9:28 AM, October 18, 2007  

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