I have a column out today in the paper about the Obama Administration’s shameful approval of 42 mountaintop removal permits. I want to be sure to post it for you.
Mountaintop removal: No science, no ethics
The Environmental Protection Agency recently approved 42 of the 48 permit applications for mountaintop removal operations in West Virginia, deeming them environmentally responsible. A review of mountaintop removal would serve the EPA well.
Mountaintop removal is a way for the coal companies to avoid having to mine the mountain the traditional way. Instead, they use millions of tons of dynamite to blow up the mountain so they can easily extract the coal underneath. Dynamite is cheaper than coal miners; no jobs created here. The toxic waste from this process is then dumped into the nearby valleys and riverbeds below, which can ruin the entire ecosystem.
More disturbing is the effect on the communities that live in the area. Coal slurry is a toxic byproduct of the mining waste, with billions of gallons stored in dams around the mining sites. At mountaintop removal sites like those in the Appalachia in West Virginia, this can shatter the community in two ways.
There was an incident last December in Tennessee where a coal slurry dam between Nashville and Knoxville burst, causing 500 million gallons of sludge to flow into the tributaries of the Tennessee River, which is also the water supply for millions living in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. It was estimated to be 40 times larger than the infamous Exxon Valdez spill.
Living near a mountaintop removal operation and living near a coal slurry dam is like living in a war zone. Explosions are going off all the time. Ash and rock is raining down around communities. Machinery is clanging all day and night. The air and water is contaminated with toxic metals and chemicals, including arsenic, lead, selenium, boron, cadmium and cobalt. A friend of mine recently traveled to a West Virginia community to see the devastation and said residents have numbness in their extremities because what they are ingesting is so toxic.
In desperation, coalfield residents of West Virginia wrote a letter to the EPA and Department of Interior begging them to stop the madness. “You are our last hope for justice at this point,” they wrote.
The EPA responded to a different letter instead. They wrote back to a West Virginia Congressman who was determined to ensure the permits went through. The EPA letter said, “I understand the importance of coal mining in Appalachia for jobs, the economy and meeting the nation’s energy needs.” You know the rest.
The health hazards mentioned came to light as a result of the EPA’s own analysis and report on the impacts of living near coal ash and slurry ponds. Both President Barack Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson have pledged to base decisions on science. Science has returned to the White House, we’re told. Exactly what kind of “science” are we talking about? This reminds me of my sixth grade “science” fair project that involved lots of burnt bread and no numbers.
Jackson, the EPA and Obama have made a mockery of science. They placed the coal industry above human decency. They let the people of Appalachia’s hopes slip right through their fingers. In so doing, they’ve undermined (no pun intended) the moral integrity of America and failed West Virginia, as well as the rest of the country.
Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
On the 42/48 approved…
The EPA’s response to the Congressman
Link for the coal slurry disaster
http://madrad2002.wordpress.com/2008/12/23/coal-slurry-dam-disaster/ (article link is in the first paragraph, butthere’s a lot of background info in the entire post).
The following two highlight the dangers of being near coalslurry ponds.
Source for the letter..