Last week, the state of West Virginia announced that it would sue both the Environmental Protection Agency and the the Army Corps of Engineers over mountain top removal mining regulations it says are “unlawful” and “based in inadequate science.”
West Virginia’s Gov. Joe Manchin has accused the government of purposefully delaying 23 pending mountain top removal mining permits and harming the state’s economy in the process.
According to the Epoch Times, “Manchin alleges that no specific law or government regulation has kept the permits from passing, only a political policy agenda specifically coming from the executive branch of government.”
Mountaintop removal, in which hundreds of feet are blasted off hills to gain access to coal seams, has become a major mining method in West Virginia, Kentucky and nearby states, but also a source of bitter conflict.
Producers say it saves money, but critics say it is destroying the landscape as the removed dirt and rocks are dumped in valleys and toxic chemicals are released.
In reponse to Manchin’s allegations, the EPA pointed to scientific research that demonstrates the negative impacts of mountaintop removal and valley fill mining, including:
- the destruction of diverse, old growth deciduous forests
- the burying of small streams that are a vital part of the greater Appalachian watershed. To date, more than 1,700 miles of Appalachian stream channels have been damaged by mining spoils.
- In some regions, as much as 35% of the watershed has been mined, and active mines cover 12%–15% of the landscape.
When the Obama administration took over in 2008, opponents of mountain top removal mining were initially impressed with the EPA’s action of freezing over 70 new mountain top removal mining permits. The excitment was shortlived however, as the EPA soon caved into industry pressure and approved more mountain top removal mining sites in the already devastated West Virginia mountains.
Right now the EPA is deciding whether to veto what would be one of the largest mountaintop removal sites yet, the Spruce No. 1 Mine project in West Virginia.
Mountain top removal site near Rawl, West Virginia
Image Credit: ilovemountains.org