On Tuesday the EPA announced a new water quality standard that would essentially put an end to mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining, if properly implemented.
Nate Kharrl of EcoFactory describes the announcement best:
Under the new regulations, electrical conductivity of streams and rivers near mining operations will not be allowed to significantly increase. This measure, called salinity, reflects the metal and mineral content of the water. Because the massive amount of soil removed during surface mining is dumped in nearby “valley fills,” the streams that are smothered by the rock and soil waste are saturated with the naturally occurring metals and minerals exposed by the mining operation. Under the new EPA regulation, this practice of dumping mining waste into stream-laden valleys will be illegal.
As you can imagine, this is not making mining companies happy, despite an odd and unexplained jump in mining stocks.
This decision comes shortly after the announcement that the EPA was halting many permits that had previously been issued for MTR projects. They also proposed a veto of one: the Spruce No. 1 surface mine in West Virginia. Had this project gone forward, it would have been the largest mine ever approved in the area.
From the NY Times:
Arch Coal Inc.’s Spruce No. 1 mine would degrade surrounding water quality, fill more than 7 miles of headwater streams and affect more than 2,000 acres of forest, EPA said.
While we seem to be on the right track toward getting rid of mountaintop removal mining altogether, it is an incredibly difficult process to replace. Unfortunately, the alternative coal mining method is also incredibly dangerous and damaging, as demonstrated by Monday’s fatal methane blast in an underground coal mine, again in West Virginia.
What are your thoughts about coal mining? What are the alternatives, and how should the EPA get rid of it without damaging the economy? Should we find a way to make it cleaner, or move away from coal altogether? Let us know in the comments.
photo credit: gov site