I’ve criticized the EPA a lot for it’s unwillingness to do anything serious about mountaintop removal. See here.
But today, the EPA unveiled new pollution limits to curtail MTR. You can read their full guidance notice here. See the following excerpts from the Washington Post article, and below that a press release by the Sierra Club. You can also read a great piece in the Huffington Post by MTR activist Jeff Biggers, who calls this “The beginning of the end of mountaintop removal. Let’s hope.”
The decision, announced Thursday afternoon by EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, is expected to end or significantly cut the use of “valley fills.” At these sites, mining companies fill valleys to the brim with rock and rubble left over when peaks are sheared off to reach coal seams inside.
“Minimizing the number of valley fills is a very, very key factor,” Jackson said. “You’re talking about no, or very few, valley fills that are going to meet this standard.”
Both supporters and opponents of the practice said that, because large valley fills are such a common part of mountaintop mines, the move could curtail the mines in general. Mountaintop mining provides only about 10 percent of U.S. coal, but it is a much larger part of the economy in some sections of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky.
“It could mean the end of an era,” said Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association. He said that to limit valley fills “is tantamount to saying the intent is to strictly limit coal mining in Appalachia,” with serious economic consequences for regions dependent on the mines.
Sierra Club Applauds Environmental Protection Agency for
Cracking Down on Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining
Tough New Policy Should Protect Communities and Waterways
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a bold new policy to protect communities and waterways from the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. By setting tough guidance for mining near streams, the EPA will severely limit this most devastating form of coal mining. The EPA also addressed the negative impacts to communities caused by mountaintop removal coal mining.
In response Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued the following statement:
“The new policy represents the most significant administrative action ever taken to address mountaintop removal coal mining. Today’s announcement reaffirms the Obama administration’s commitment to science and to environmental justice for the communities and natural areas of Appalachia.
“We also applaud the EPA for recognizing the negative impacts to the communities of Appalachia, who have suffered long enough from the effects of mountaintop removal.
“After years of the coal industry making molehills out of Appalachia’s mountains, these new guidelines will reduce the destruction caused by mountaintop removal, and communities will be able to focus on building a clean energy economy. Tragically, mining companies have already buried close to 2,000 miles of Appalachian streams beneath piles of toxic waste and debris.
“Today’s announcement is a major step toward protecting Appalachia’s natural heritage. If effectively implemented and vigorously enforced, this policy will largely prevent coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams. We call on other agencies, including the Army Corps of Engineers, the Office of Surface Mining and the Department of the Interior to follow EPA’s lead and take their own steps to protect the region’s communities and water resources.”