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Springtime in Appalachia is always a time of sublime beauty, for the ancient mountains and forests come alive with flowers, bird songs, and the eternal sense of renewal. This year, though, is extra special, because an uplifting wind of hope has wafted across the region from, of all places, Washington, D.C.
Lisa Jackson, the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency, recently made a bold break from previous policies governing a brutish form of coal mining called mountaintop removal. This method lets coal barons explode the tops off mountains and shove the blasted rubble down the mountainsides, burying streams and everything else below. Such devastation is insane and widely opposed by the region’s people, but George W’s EPA was tight with the industry, so its officials rigged our Clean Water laws to okay the insanity.
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Jackson, however, seems intent to put the “protection” back in EPA. She has rejected two applications to explode more mountaintops and is putting about 250 others on hold, subjecting them to scientific review. “EPA will use the best science and follow the letter of the law in ensuring we are protecting our environment,” she said.
In response, coal executives are using their mine workers as PR props to demand that the mountaintop explosions continue. It’s about “their jobs,” wail industry honchos. Horse guano! In the whole history of Appalachia’s coalfields, the bosses have never given a damn about mine workers. Indeed, mountaintop removal was adopted by the industry because it requires so few workers. Mining jobs have fallen from 120,000 at their peak to barely 14,000 today.
Rather than blowing up mountains, local groups are pushing for economic growth based on green jobs and renewable energy. To learn more, go to www.appvoices.org.
“E.P.A. Plans Closer Review of Mountaintop Mining Permits,” The New York Times, March 25, 2009.
“Hope is alive in the mountains and valleys of Appalachia,” Press release from www.ohvec.org Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, March 24, 2009.
“Mountaintop mining project put on hold,” www.alternet.org, February 17, 2009.