Fifty House Democrats have joined together to support of new mining regulations that rein in mountain top removal mining.
The letter was sent to EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson just days after the State of West Virginia filed a lawsuit against the agency and the Army Corp of Engineers.
West Virginia’s Gov. Joe Manchin (D) accused the government of purposefully delaying 23 pending mountain top removal mining permits and harming the state’s economy in the process.
Although the Democrats didn’t mention Manchin or the lawsuit directly in the letter, it is believed that their timing was intentional.
“When scientific research shows that surface mining routinely violates downstream water quality standards,” the Democrats wrote, “it is critical for EPA to ensure that states and mining companies are aware of the pollution levels that cause harm, that discharge permits incorporate adequate safeguards, and that the permits are enforced.”
In April, the EPA announced a set of actions to further clarify and strengthen environmental permitting requirements for Appalachian mountaintop removal and other surface coal mining projects.
“The ultimate success of the new guidance depends upon effective implementation by EPA and its regional offices,” the letter continued. “Mining companies and some state agencies may reject this guidance, but we strongly urge the EPA to carry it out aggressively.”
Mountaintop removal is a form of surface coal mining in which explosives are used to access coal seams, generating large volumes of waste that bury adjacent streams. The resulting waste that then fills valleys and streams can significantly compromise water quality, often causing permanent damage to ecosystems and rendering streams unfit for swimming, fishing and drinking.
It is estimated that almost 2,000 miles of Appalachian headwater streams have been buried by mountaintop removal coal mining.
Among those endorsing the letter were Reps. Frank Pallone (N.J.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Henry Waxman (Calif.), Pete Stark (Calif.) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.).
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