Friday, January 14, 2011

EPA Revokes a Mountaintop Removal Permit

Mountaintop removal is mining by brute force. Entire mountains are blasted out of existence and the refuse dumped into what used to be creeks and rivers. Under the Bush administration, the practice was given a free pass on the water pollution it created.

Yesterday, as the New York Times reports, the EPA said no:
WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency revoked the permit for one of the nation’s largest mountaintop-removal coal mining projects on Thursday, saying the mine would have done unacceptable damage to rivers, wildlife and communities in West Virginia. It was the first time the agency had rescinded a valid clean water permit for a coal mine.
The scale of the damage is difficult to comprehend:
The project would have involved dynamiting the tops off mountains over an area of 2,278 acres to get at the rich coal deposits beneath. The resulting rubble, known as spoil, would be dumped into nearby valleys, as well as the Pigeonroost Branch, the Oldhouse Branch and their tributaries, killing fish, salamanders and other wildlife. The agency said that disposal of the mining material would also pollute the streams and endanger human health and the environment downstream.
This is the first time the EPA has revoked a permit for a coal mine. Arch Coal, the mining company that had requested the permit, promises to challenge the decision in court.

Coal provides cheap power, if we ignore the cost of damage to the earth, polluted streams, toxic air emissions and climate change. If all these costs were factored in, coal power would be much more expensive.

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