Obama Administration’s Disappointing Position on MTR

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First thing this morning I joined journalists and other environmentalists on phone call/press conference. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of the Interior (DOI) and Army Corps of Engineers announced a coordinated effort to “reduce the environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining.” Read the press release here.

I believe (maybe naively) that these agencies are trying hard to take a strong stance on MTR. But as I listened to the press conference all I could think was “reduce impacts of mtr?” – really? Mountaintop removal coal mining is a practice that is inherently devastating to air, quality, lifestyle, culture and landscape – there is no environmentally friendly way to blow the top off a mountain!!!!


We will be closely watching the impacts of the Obama administration’s new MTR policies – it’s too soon to say what those impacts will be (if any.) I hope that this announcement is truly a good faith effort to take a step toward ending MTR mining. I also hope that this step can be quickly and decisively leveraged into a strong ban on the practice altogether.

You can read responses by allies in the fight against MTR here and here, and RAN’s statement on the announcement is pasted below:

June 11, 2009
CONTACT: Nell Greenberg, 510-847-9777

Press Statement on Administration’s New Plan on Mountaintop Removal Mining by Rainforest Action Network
Rainforest Action Network is disappointed about the Administration’s announcement today to reform mountaintop removal mining practices in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“The administration is pledging better oversight of mountain top removal mines but providing few specifics about how its oversight will change this destructive practice. This is a step in the right direction at a time when we need leaps.

“Rigorous enforcement of existing laws is of course needed and would be a welcome change, but does not in itself represent the true change that we need to transition immediately away from the destructive practice of mountaintop removal.

“The Administration’s new plan does nothing to address the fact that nearly all mountaintop mining disposes of excess rock and debris in “valley fills” that bury hundreds of miles of streams, contaminate drinking water and wreck ecosystems.

“Why is the Administration allowing massive environmental destruction of historic mountain ranges and essential drinking water for a relatively tiny amount of coal, a fraction of all the coal we use? This just doesn’t pan out in the cost-benefit analysis.

“Mountaintop removal, the world’s worst strip mining, is unacceptable. Period. We don’t believe that MTR can be made “kinder and gentler”. Blowing the tops off of mountain ranges to harvest dirty coal harms the people and places of Appalachia, destroys the economic potential of the Appalachian region for clean energy opportunities and furthers the burning of climate killing coal.

This is not a practice that needs to be reformed. It is a practice that needs to be abolished.”

Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break America’s oil addiction, protect endangered forests and indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org