West Virginia Sues Feds Over Mountain Top Removal Permits

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.

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Mountain top removal site near Rawl, West Virginia
Image Credit: ilovemountains.org

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101 comments

Brian F.
Brian F.4 years ago

I wish someone would sue the mining companies for allowing this to happen in West Virginia. But I guess the mining companies with all their money will hire the best lawyers and defend themselves from any criminal wrong doing.

Katheryn R.
Katheryn R.5 years ago

Kayla F:
MTR actually CAUSES ghost towns.... The work that used to be done by people is now done by machines. People become unemployed. House and property values drop. MTR is only good for the companies who own/operate the mines. And it doesn't increase coal production by much. "In 1951, West Virginia coal mines produced 163,448,001 tons of coal and employed more than one hundred thousand people. In 2002, the state's mines produced 163,896,890 tons of coal, ... but... lost 15,094 employees...." (Burns 51) Underground mining is proven to be much safer and much more environmentally friendly (when done correctly). Maybe YOU should do some research....
Burns, Shirley Stewart. Bringing Down the Mountains. Morgantown: West Virginia Press, 2007

Also, in West Virginia we desperately need to diversify our economy. WHEN, not if, the coal runs out, we will be screwed.

Gail Pugsley
Gail Pugsley5 years ago

The headline of this article made me think that West Virginia was suing against mountaintop removal. Ha, guess not.
When I first heard of this practice, I just couldn't believe it. Who would even think of destroying the wonders of our natural world in this way and destroying the waters and homes of people in and near the mountains?
A class of elementary students in Nicholasville, KY made a big ongoing protest against blowing up Black Mountain. It gave a lot of attention to this problem.

Kayla, you are the one being duped by the big coal companies that care nothing about the welfare and safety of the coal miners.

Edward M.
Edward M.5 years ago

Depends on who is paying who, and for what return.
Destroying your State just to obtain a finite amount of gain says it all.
Are these elected representatives really protecting the interests of their citizens, or big business?

Deborah Litster
Deborah Litster5 years ago

Another digging dippity doo da

Andrew B.
Andrew Butt5 years ago

I have to say that I agree with Deborah

Gail Lopez
Gail Lopez5 years ago

Kudos to An Mi, what a pleasure it is to read your comment! Take heart, it will end once we collectively demand it.

Take a look at Jesse Johnson:
http://westvirginia.watchdog.org/2084/audio-senate-candidate-johnson-joins-hundreds-to-protest-mtr-in-dc/

and at our all time favorite:
http://appalachiarising.org/

Gail Lopez
Gail Lopez5 years ago

MTR should not be allowed. I have been and will forever be against it.

Coal is a major source of energy in the US. Get your facts correct before making statements re: your energy sources. Pennsylvania obtains more than 40% of its energy from coal. Here's one helpful aid:

http://www.americaspower.org/The-Facts/

Stephen G.
Jason T.5 years ago

Kayla F. I don't use coal to light my home. What planet are you living on where coal is requirement to produce light? Their are tons of energy sources besides coal, most of which are better for the planet.

You're attitude if laughable. I have every right to say whatever I want about your religion. Bill O Reilly and Fox "News" and the Westboro church always bring up their right to free speech whenever someone criticizes them for hating Muslims and all manner of minorities. Yet when I criticize the attitude breed by your religion, all of the sudden I don't have the right to so? Hypocrisy and double standards.

Btw, I don't "worship" anything. I respect life for what it is, I don't need to believe some invisible sky daddy dominates all life.

Lynnette Bower
Lynnette Bower5 years ago

Mother Earth, Bend over and grab your ankles.