Although this should be clear as daylight, this new report by an array of top scientists spells out with unparalleled detail and scientific review the destruction from mountaintop removal. Press release is here. Mountaintop removal is a topic I’ve written about quite a bit myself, including this column explaining the practice, and another column calling out the Obama EPA for continuing to grant permits for the practice. In fact, they just recently started off the new year by permitting blasting of another site. The stubbornness of the EPA ignoring the obvious fact that blowing the top off a mountain and dumping it into a stream to get to the coal pollutes the stream is exactly why my group UMD for Clean Energy personally provided EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson with a letter pointing out the hypocrisy of the EPA allowing mountaintop removal. The hypocrisy is in the EPA claiming science has been restored with the new administration, and then ignoring it on this issue.
Can the EPA continue to turn its back on the science given the report today. One of the authors of this report included the University of Maryland’s Dr. Margaret Palmer who testified before the a Senate subcommittee hearing on the impacts of mountaintop removal mining on water quality, which I attended and documented. On the release of the study, she stated “The scientific evidence of the severe environmental and human impacts from mountaintop mining is strong and irrefutable. Its impacts are pervasive and long lasting and there is no evidence that any mitigation practices successfully reverse the damage it causes.”
Other authors include hydrologists, ecologists and engineers which are internationally recognized scientists, including several members of the National Academy of Sciences. This includes Dr. Emily Bernhardt of Duke, who stated “The chemicals released into streams from valley fills contain a variety of ions and trace metals which are toxic or debilitating for many organisms, which explains why biodiversity is reduced below valley fills.” The authors provide overwhelming evidence that mine reclamation and mitigation practices have not prevented the contaminants from moving into downstream waters.
David Roberts of Grist says “Now in Q&A with the scientists. One says, “this is the most heavily peer-reviewed paper I’ve ever published—one review was 18 pages long.” The scientists received no outside funding for this; they donated their time. One says the project was sparked by a request from NGOs. They’re calling for a moratorium on permits until there can be a “rational hearing” on the science. Many of them were new to the issue when they started this; all of them seem kind of shocked by how horrific it is and by how little attention it’s gotten.”
and “To me, the most amazing part of all this—and clearly the scientists are amazed as well—is the fact thatthere’s never been a comprehensive assessment of MTR impacts before. We’re blowing up mountains and we have no idea what the consequences are! The mind boggles. It’s like the whole country is just discovering Appalachia.”
As Appalachian Voices aptly puts it “In a recent interview the President told the political news organization, Politico, “It’s about listening to what our scientists have to say, even when it’s inconvenient-especially when it’s inconvenient.”
Memo to the Obama Administration: LISTEN UP!
Additional Reactions and Links:
Washington Post: “Mountaintop coal mining — in which Appalachian peaks are blasted off and stream valleys buried under tons of rubble — is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits to do it, a group of scientists said in a paper released Thursday.”
NRDC: “Earlier this week, the nation’s premier environmental agency signed off on a proposed mining permit — and possibly another in short order — that will allow coal companies to continue their dismantling of Appalachian peaks at the expense of wildlife habitat, water quality and public health.”
Sierra Club: “This groundbreaking new report in one of the world’s preeminent scientific journals makes it clear – mountaintop removal not only threatens human health and causes severe, sometimes irreversible environmental damage, but current regulations are also not adequate to protect Appalachia’s land and people,” said Ed Hopkins, environmental quality program director at the Sierra Club. “If the Obama administration is serious about science driving policy, then this report should be the nail in the coffin that prompts the administration to issue new Clean Water Act regulations that prohibit the dumping of mining waste into streams.”
Desmog Blog: “If President Obama is sincere in upholding scientific integrity and regulating based on published evidence rather than industry influence, then this groundbreaking study should provide ample incentive to pound the final nail in the coffin of the ridiculous practice of mountaintop removal.”
Climate Progress: “It’s long been unclear that coal with carbon capture and storage was going to be affordable or practical in the foreseeable future, if ever — see “Is coal with carbon capture and storage a core climate solution?“ Now we know it isn’t viable from an environmental or human health perspective.”