In a big victory for America’s environment and the hard-hit people of Appalachia, Barack Obama’s reorganized and revitalized EPA has just proposed to veto a massively-destructive mountaintop removal operation in West Virginia. The decision reverses the approval of a permit application that George W’s industry-run EPA had rubber stamped for the giant Arch Coal corporation three years ago. Grassroots Appalachian advocates had tied up that permit in court, and they are now celebrating EPA’s new stand against the grotesque mining practice of decapitating Appalachia’s ancient, ecologically-rich mountains.
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After extensive scientific analysis, EPA officials found “unequivocal” evidence that Spruce No. 1, the mine owned by Arch Coal, would cause “significant and irreversible damage” to the area. Indeed, the corporation would have blasted off the tops of Logan County Mountains, destroyed nearly 2,300 acres of forest, shoved toxic debris into six valleys and nearly eight miles of streams, and contaminated downstream surface waters with selenium, aluminum, and other metals – not to mention endangering the health and safety of people living around the mine.
This is the first time in the 38-year history of the Clean Water Act that the EPA has used its authority to stop a mining project that had previously been approved. But extraordinary conditions demand extraordinary action, and this is a bold, progressive step forward, perhaps signaling that this insanely-ruinous method of mining for corporate profits is finally coming to an end.
The victory is not yet complete, for EPA’s veto process is a long one, but a last we’re headed in the right direction. To keep pushing, connect with a grassroots coalition called The Alliance for Appalachia: www.theallianceforappalachia.org.