The Obama Administration has revoked the permit for one of the largest mountaintop removal mining projects in the United States, in West Virginia. Said permit was issued during the fossil fuel fueled Bush Administration, after a long court battle. Mountaintop removal mining involves blasting the tops off mountains to get to the coal. Very destructive, as you can see from the image below.
After almost forty years since the Clean Water Act was passed into law, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has never retroactively vetoed a mining permit. This is a first. The EPA has retracted the permit for Arch Coal’s 2,300 acre mine planned for Logan County, West Virginia. This should serve to halt most mining activity.
The EPA sighted more than 50,000 public comments and held a major public hearing in West Virginia. The EPA said it revoked the permit because it found that new scientific research on mountaintop removal mining indicated that potential harm to streams and watershed areas surrounding the project could be significant. No kidding.
The decision is a huge win for those who would like to experience a cleaner and more environmentally sustainable world. I’m sure head NASA climate scientist James Hansen will be celebrating the win. In a show of solidarity with activists, Hansen was arrested protesting mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virgina.
Apart from being incredibly destructive to the mountains where the mining occurs, James Hansen tells us in his latest book, Storms of My Grandchildren, that the he thinks we need to start phasing out coal mining as soon and possible. Hansen has said:
“We have to phase out greenhouse emissions over the next 20 years.” “Where should you start? Well, mountaintop removal is producing only 7 percent of the nation’s coal and it’s a dangerous practice.”
Unsurprisingly, the decision to revoke the permit has been attacked by West Virginia leaders and the mining lobby. This decision by the EPA also comes as Republicans in the House of Representatives, together with some coal state democrats, are attempting to restrict the powers of the EPA itself.
You can bet this long-running fight is not going to end here.
Image CC licensed by ilovemountains.org