Wednesday, September 30th, the Environmental Protection Agency released a list of 79 pending mountaintop removal permits that will be held for further review. While the decision signals a strong first step, there are still many more pending permits, not to mention all of the active mining occurring throughout Appalachia, that was not impacted by this decision. To read more about this decision, read my earlier post.
In response to this announcement, concerned DC residents went to the EPA headquarters to show their support for this decision, but to also remind the EPA that much more needs to be done to abolish mountaintop removal. Many passersby stopped to learn more about the issue and many of whom work within the Agency noticed our presence. Employees were even opening their windows to lean out and ask what we were up to.
While this decision was an important one, many coalfield residents and organizers like myself, question whether this announcement will hold its course. In a post by Jeff Biggers in the Nation entitled “Coalfield Uprising“, he explains how this decision has only strengthened activists resolve.
“While we appreciate the EPA making this step to bring back enforcement of the Clean Water Act,” says Lorelei Scarbro, an organizer with Coal River Mountain Watch and a coal miner’s widow whose garden and hillside orchards border a proposed mountaintop removal site in West Virginia, “we will continue to come to Washington, DC, until mountaintop removal’s irreversible devastation to our communities and waterways is halted.”
It is hard for those who live under active blasting to see this as a sign of hope, as I mentioned before, this decision does nothing to address the destruction that is taking place daily throughout West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky, Tennesee and Virginia.
Earlier this spring, Bo Webb, a coal miner’s son and Vietnam veteran sent an open letter to Obama in which he wrote “My family and I, like many American citizens in Appalachia, are living in a state of terror. Like sitting ducks waiting to be buried in an avalanche of mountain waste, or crushed by a falling boulder, we are trapped in a war zone within our own country.”
In response to the EPA’s decision Teri Blanton of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth remarked, “This is great news, but it will take more than regulations to end the destruction. Mountaintop removal and valley fills should be banned.”
EPA has the authority to veto the permits, but only time will tell if they will use the full extent of their oversight to block this destructive practice and put an end to Mountaintop removal once and for all.