EPA Stops Mountaintop Removal; Waterways Still Not Safe?

Just days after news leaked that Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency will designate CO2 as a pollutant, the EPA has announced that hundreds of mountaintop removal coal mining permits will be put on hold while their impact on streams and waterways is evaluated.


Mountaintop removal is a controversial method of extracting coal that literally blows the tops off mountains to access the coal underneath. The waste is then dumped in streams and wetlands, which has alarmed environmentalists and community activists.

“This is a strong signal that the Obama administration is taking the right steps towards recognizing the importance of sound science and the law when it comes to mountaintop removal mining,” said Jennifer Chavez, an attorney with Earthjustice. “Today’s announcement and letters from the EPA to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demonstrate a fresh perspective on the need to completely review the destructive impact that mountaintop removal mining has on streams and water quality throughout Appalachia.”

While mountaintop removal has been put on hold, apparently the mining companies may continue to dispose of waste into streams.

“Unfortunately, EPA’s action falls short in at least one crucial aspect –- the agency appears to be content to have the Corps continue to permit the disposal of mine waste in streams and other surface waters,” said Jon Devine, Senior Attorney for the Water Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The Bush administration created this scheme by adopting a policy loophole in 2002 which is fundamentally inconsistent with the principles that underlie the Clean Water Act.”

UPDATE: Apparently there may be even less reason to celebrate.

Photo: NRDC

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