Last month, when RAN paid a visit to the Environmental Protection Agency, we were uninvited, and spent 30 hours locked down to their front lawn in Washington DC, urging EPA staff to act immediately to end mountaintop removal coal mining.
Well, we’ve seen real progress in the last 30 days, with the EPA moving to veto a permit for the largest MTR mine in West Virginia and issuing new guidance – the strongest yet – on MTR new permit applications.
It was also a pleasant surprise to receive an invite from EPA region 9 last week to join with them on Earth Day and host a table at their San Francisco celebration.
Not to miss an opportunity, we packed a box full of literature about mountaintop removal, donned our vibrant-yellow “Stop Mountaintop Removal” hats and headed over to their event.
It was a good day to be out in the sunshine, talking to many EPA staff and members of the public about the urgent need to protect Appalachia’s mountains, streams and communities. We thanked the EPA for their progress to date and urged them to go all the way and abolish MTR once and for all in 2010.
The many EPA staff I spoke to optimistically commented that we are now in ‘a new era’ for the EPA, with raised staff morale, their scientific findings being ‘listened to and responded to’ by the current administration and the new political appointees in the agency.
All very encouraging.
We’re paying close attention these next few months as the first batch of new MTR permit applications are scrutinized under the EPA’s new guidance. This is how we will find out the real impact of their new measures and whether mountains, streams and communities will get strong, new levels of protection.