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As expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit for Arch Coal's Pine Creek No. 1 Surface Mine in southern West Virginia. 

 In addition to removing the mountain to access the coal, the company will bury more than 14,500 feet of streams under toxic mining waste and debris.  The permit requires mitigation to the tune of roughly 37,000 feet of new streams that will be "created" elsewhere -- as if engineered waterways could ever compensate for the loss of natural, life-giving headwater streams.

This greenlighted permit is one of 79 applications for Appalachian mountaintop removal operations that EPA froze in September, citing concerns about significant water quality impacts.  Six other permits have been issued since then; 36 have been withdrawn by the applicants; and 36 are still pending. 


The Pine Creek permit is the first to be issued since EPA announced new water quality standardsfor surface mines in April.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said then that the agency's tougher standards would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for coal companies to receive permits allowing them to fill valley streams with dirt, rubble and debris generated by mountaintop removal.  In issuing the Pine Creek permit yesterday, EPA released a statement reiterating its commitment to uphold the Clean Water Act when regulating coal mining while insisting that "the improvements to this permit demonstrate once again that the health, waters and environment of coalfield communities can be protected while also preserving the jobs and economic benefits."

So, now another Appalachian peak will be blown to smithereens; two miles of streams will be obliterated; wildlife will be lost; drinking water will be put at risk of contamination; and residents in Logan County along Pine Creek will suffer for the sake of Big Coal.

When, if ever, will the Obama administration realize that it's not enough to regulate an atrocity -- mountaintop removalcoal mining must be abolished.

Originally posted to rperks on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 05:44 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting statement that (0+ / 0-)

    "as if engineered waterways could ever compensate for the loss of natural, life-giving headwater streams."

    Couldn't they, though?  Nature's way isn't always best, even for nature.  For example, even before this big BP spill, oil sometimes leaked into the sea from natural seepage.  And that, just like the BP spill, was bad for most animal life.  No examples come to mind, but I'm sure if the natural seepage was bad enough, we humans would take measures to clean it up.  And that "artifical" environment we made would be better for nature than if we had just left it alone.

    I have no idea what Arch Coal will do, of course, but I just wanted to suggest that engineered waterways really could compensate for natural streams, or even improve upon them.

    •  Natures way is the best (4+ / 0-)

      for example, projects are now returning straightened rivers into their original meandering course.

      This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

      by Agathena on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 06:10:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  OT Check out this movie (0+ / 0-)

      "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea" and see some of those natural seepages and the life forms that coexist with them, or in spite of them. Some of them exist in environments that would kill most life.

    •  The only examples I can think of are where man (0+ / 0-)

      has already messed with the system. Or perhaps not.

      Quite a few endangered species for various reasons led a precarious existance already. I'm told the spotted owl population declined anyway, there was another owl that filled the same niche better.

      Man is much better at controlling populations of large mamals on the limited habitat left. Without intervention we might well have much less diversity. But that again is simply controlling an already messed up system.

      "Don't fall or we both go" Derek Hersey

      by ban nock on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 08:29:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh please. (0+ / 0-)

      Beyond that I'm just speechless.

      This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

      by AllisonInSeattle on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 09:59:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nature knows best. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Burying fragile headwater streams located in valleys exterminates virtually all forms of life that get interred under millions of tons of waste and debris. To date, nearly 2,000 miles of Appalachian headwaters have been buried or polluted by mountaintop removal, and the damage to Appalachian watercourses has continued at an average rate of 120 miles per year.

      Even waterways not completely destroyed by valley fills can suffer from mining pollution. These headwaters are home to some of the most biologically diverse aquatic species in the world, including many found nowhere else on earth—and they serve as the source of drinking water for
      local residents.

      Valley fills release trace metals and toxins
      into surrounding waters for decades after their creation. According to the EPA, over 63 percent of streams located in the coalfields are "impaired" by alarming levels of heavy metals and toxic chemicals, which can harm aquatic species
      and threaten human health. For example, studies have
      found increases in calcium, magnesium, total dissolved solids, hardness, manganese, and more threats to water quality.

      Some streams in West Virginia, for example, have seen 30-40 fold increases in concentrations of sulfate, which is toxic to plants and other organisms. Selenium, which can be highly toxic to aquatic life even at relatively low concentrations, has been found downstream of some mountaintop mining sites at levels over 15 times the
      threshold for toxic bioaccumulation, causing deformation and reproductive failure in fish. Once polluted by selenium, an aquatic habitat remains difficult, if not impossible to restore.

      Learn more at:

  •  Not sure if the Clean Water Act (0+ / 0-)

    ...allows them to stop it entirely.  And there are probably lots of case law that EPA has to navigate through to deny a permit, without costing the US government a bunch of legal fees to defend a suit.

    The clear answer is legislation banning the practice.  Do you think that Democrats from coal-mining states would support such legislation? No, that's not a rhetorical question.

    Because getting it through Congress right now would be very tough.  And tougher if coal-state Democrats are not on board.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 06:36:20 PM PDT

    •  That is WHY (0+ / 0-)

      we Tarheels have introduced legislation in our state three years running that forbids Duke, Progress, et al. to use coal mined by this method. On the pattern of a similar law that was passed in Ohio. We are the big users. We need to cut off the market.

      I'd have thought by your moniker that you knew this, and were fully behind it.

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 06:49:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm behind the legislation (0+ / 0-)

        And I think we are more likely to get it passed in NC than it would be in the current Congress.  That was not my point.  And my question about the coal-state Senators is a key one for Congress.  I know there is a lot of opposition to mountaintop removal in coal states.  I don't know what takes precedence with the coals state reps in Congress -- banning mountaintop removal or the illusion that it creates jobs.

        I think Duke is trying to be cute about that NC legislation by talking about wood-fired electric generation plants.  Talk about back to the future.  Duke owns lots of mountain forest in North Carolina and South Carolina.

        50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

        by TarheelDem on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 07:04:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They own mountain (0+ / 0-)

          where there is no coal and they won't allow wind. Duke and Progress are both vying for permits to sell electricity out of state (and country). Because they don't need the increased capacity they've been gifted by the feds. WE don't need it, they sent all our manufacturing jobs overseas years ago.

          Trust them like you'd trust TVA - not farther than you can throw 'em. Look around, the truth is out there...

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 07:19:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Well whatever comes of it that's a real (0+ / 0-)

    nice looking hill in the photo.

    "Don't fall or we both go" Derek Hersey

    by ban nock on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 08:32:03 PM PDT

  •  Ugh. Sure wish this would hit the rec list (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    What a tragedy.

    This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

    by AllisonInSeattle on Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 09:59:03 PM PDT

  •  Hazzards (0+ / 0-)

    Straightenin' the curves
    Flattenin' the hills
    Someday the mountain might get 'em
    but the law never will

    - "Dukes of Hazzard" theme song

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