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If you live near a stream, should you be allowed to dump waste in it? I don’t mean a garbage bag of waste, but tons of it – toxic waste that buries the stream and contaminates downstream drinking water so badly that it runs black out of the tap.
If such gross selfishness would offend you, you’re probably not an executive of a coal corporation.
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In Appalachia, coal barons routinely explode the tops off of ancient, forest-covered mountains, then merrily bulldoze the resulting tons of coal waste and rubble down the sides into the valleys and streams below. All so they can get at the coal more cheaply and haul away a fatter profit. “Mountaintop removal,” they call it – a process that is an environmental rape and an ethical disgrace. Already, 500 of America’s oldest, most beautiful mountains have been decapitated and more than 1,200 miles of pristine streams have been buried.
Isn’t this a violation of our Clean Water Act? Of course! Except that a 2002 rule change by Bush & Company perverted the law, redefining “water pollutants” to excluded mining waste. Then early this year, a Bush-appointed federal court ruled that stream burial is okay, giving the green light to 90 more mountain destruction projects.
However, Alliance for Appalachia, a grassroots coalition of 13 regional groups, is pushing a congressional bill to outlaw this outrage, and it has a good chance to pass. HR 1310, the Clean Water Protection Act, already has 116 co-sponsors, and President Obama says he’s against mining coal by “simply blowing the tops off mountains.”
Obama can make the difference, both by aggressively backing the bill and by directing the Corps of Engineers to suspend mining permits for mountaintop removal. To learn how you can help, go to www.ilovemountains.org.
“Ending Mountaintop Removal in 2009,” Press release from www.theallianceforappalachia.org , March 16, 2009.
“Appalachia’s Agony,” www.nytimes.com, March 16, 2009.