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Dept. of Protests: Mountaintop removal edition

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Editor's note: Yesterday, activists gathered outside of the EPA's Region III office at 16th and Arch to protest the truly hideous practice called mountaintop removal, in which coal companies literally dynamite mountains to gain easier access to the coal inside. We dispatched intern Emily Currier to the scene; she files this report:

To show solidarity for the people of Appalachia, a group of about 30 people, from college students to lifelong activists, rallied outside the Philadelphia’s EPA Region 3 office in the Monday morning cold. While coal mining may seem like a foreign concept to urbanites, many decisions about mining are made right here. Philadelphia’s EPA Region 3 office calls the shots in the Mid-Atlantic Region, meaning Delaware, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Currently, the office is reviewing 23 permits for mountaintop removal, a devastating form of strip mining that literally levels entire mountains.

Philly Against Coal, Philly Rising Tide, and Rainforest Action Network organized the demonstration to speak for people in West Virginia who, they say, don’t have similar access to government officials. This morning's protest coincides with one at the EPA regional office in Atlanta.

“Mountaintop removal has become a nationwide issue. From Philadelphia to Atlanta people are standing up to say its unacceptable," says Joshua Kahn Russell, a rally organizer and a Rainforest Action Network member.

The protesters, many of whom donned green hard-hats or white "Wind Field Tech" jumpsuits, held up predictable enough signage: “Mountain Justice,” “Windmills Not Toxic Spills,” etc. To chants of “It’s time to take a stand, EPA, lend us a hand,” Robin Markle, of Philly Rising Tide, and Josh Yoder, a Temple student, approached EPA security to try to get a letter delivered to Shawn Garvin, the EPA’s regional administrator.That latter requested thatEPA officials to do a flyover of the Appalachian Mountains and stop issuing permits. It pointed to recent scientific evidence about the sheer destructiveness of mountaintop removal.

An hour after the protest began, Markle and Yoder emerged from the office, and said their requests were granted. The letter was delivered and Jeffrey Lapp, an EPA official, came down to meet with the activists and agree to set up a future appointment. Which is, of course, something, and better than nothing.

Philadelphia City Paper
Emily Currier
Tuesday, March 2, 2010

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