The Dernogalizer

May 24, 2009

Shame on the EPA

Filed under: Energy/Climate — Matt Dernoga @ 3:10 pm
Tags: , ,

Obama’s EPA has done some good things already, but there is one really big black mark on their record which is extremely disappointed.  With the commotion of the climate bill moving through Congress, I hadn’t had a chance to comment on the EPA’s ruling that 42 of the 48 Mountaintop Removal mining permits were \”environmentally responsible\”.  I’ve documented plenty of reasons why coal use needs to be phased out, and “clean coal” is a joke. In case you need a recap…..The coal industry has gotten a lot of much deserved negative press ever since the coal slurry dam disaster that happened a few months ago. This brought to light that, maybe we should regulate our coal ash. Of course, no amount of regulation will ever make \”clean coal\” a reality, especially considering that it’s extraction often involves the very destructive mountain top removal. Oh..and coal is getting more expensive.  

The notion that anything in the process of mountaintop removal is environmentally responsible is a joke.  I’ve written about the destructiveness of this.  I wanted to reference part of my column…

“Billions of tons of coal slurry are stored all over the destruction sites in dams, right within the communities of the people who live there. There have been incidents near coal slurry dams with large numbers of residents having ailments such as asthma, diarrhea, vomiting, shortness of breath, blisters in the mouth, and nausea. These can be linked to the coal dust that floats around in the air like pollen and high levels of contaminants such as mercury, nickel, and cadmium which leak into the drinking water from the coal slurries. The long term implication of what these people are ingesting is fatal.”

A friend of mine went and visited the communities in West Virginia affected by mountaintop removal.  He said that this is absolutely true.  The air in the area is extremely toxic and filled with particulate matter.  A lot of the people there are coming down with respiratory ailments, and by ingesting a lot of this particulate, they’re experiencing numbness in their extremities.  He also met people who are refusing to sell their land to the coal companies so that they can extract the coal, and that people have received countless death threats because of this.  What’s very mind numbing about all of this is that when the EPA was conducting a study of the effects of mountaintop removal, they found these same problems.  Let me quote the main summary finding of their study…

“An EPA risk assessment documents excess cancer risks of up to 1 in 50 for residents living near unlined ash ponds.  The study also shows risks to fish and wildlife may exceed known safe levels by a factor of 1,000 or more.  Risk estimates first identified in 2002 were blacked out by the Bush Administration in Freedom of Information Act responses.”

The press release by Earth Justice regarding this assessment is here.

The ray of hope in all of this is that the citizens being impacted by mountaintop removal are fighting like hell for their communities.  This is in my opinion boiling down to the civil rights battle of the 21st century thus far.  There is a very moving letter which residents sent to Lisa Jackson and the EPA regarding the abuses the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.  I won’t post the whole thing, but I think the opening paragraph sums things up.

Dear Ms. Jackson and Mr. Salazar:

We are grassroots groups and citizens that have a stake in the areas of West Virginia that are being destroyed by steep slope strip mining/mountaintop removal and other forms of irresponsible mining. Some of us live and work in the affected area. Ms. Jackson and Mr. Salazar, you are our last hope for justice at this point. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is not doing its job in protecting the environment here in West Virginia, and as a result the people are suffering from Environmental Injustice. We are asking that the EPA and/or OSMRE take primacy from the WV DEP to protect us, the people of West Virginia.

So far, their “last hope for justice” has given them nothing.  As a result, the situation is escalatiing.  Just yesterday, there was word of many arrests made during a direct action protest.  I think if all Americans knew what was happening with mountaintop removal in their country, it would be halted in an instant.  Beyond lending your support to the activists fighting off big coal, the most important thing we can all do is spread the word about what is going on here to as many people as possible.  

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3 Comments »

  1. […] Cross posted from here […]

    Pingback by Shame on the EPA | CCAN Blog — May 24, 2009 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  2. […] Shame on the EPA « The Dernogalizer […]

    Pingback by Mesothelioma News - EPA Looking for Woman Convicted of Asbestos-Related Charges — June 4, 2009 @ 2:24 am | Reply

  3. […] I’ve written a lot about mountraintop removal mining, most recent of which can be found here.  Last November, I attended a presentation by activist Dave Cooper on MTR.  Dave travels all […]

    Pingback by Dave Cooper why “clean coal” doesn’t make for clean water « The Dernogalizer — August 19, 2009 @ 2:40 pm | Reply


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