The Bush Administration, as it limps along in lame duck mode, has quietly begun proceedings to soften all kinds of environmental, wildlife and conservation regulations. Issues such as mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, the public’s ability to provide input on national forest decisions and the de-listing of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List are on the administration’s attack list. Completely irrelevant in the foreign affairs arena, sinking to lower job approval percentages every day with the American public and ineffective with Congress, Bush and his administration are now isolated and can do the only thing left — modify departmental regulations.
Photo courtesy Vivian Stockman/www.ohvec.org, Oct. 19, 2003; flyover courtesy SouthWings.org
This is the first of a multi-post series addressing these issues. I hope to raise your awareness of the issues as well as invite you to learn more and then SPEAK OUT, write a letter to the editor, join or contribute to an advocacy group, call your congressmen regarding the administration’s actions and methods, just do something!
Mountaintop removal mining has become a critical battleground for both environmental and fish and wildlife advocates as they desperately fight the coal industry which has the blessing and regulatory backing of the Bush Administration. The stated opposition to this mining procedure by both presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, has motivated the current administration to rush through and lock in pro-industry regulation modifications.
Here is the case brief on mountaintop removal from EarthJustice:
Mountaintop removal is one of the most environmentally destructive activities in the country. The Army Corps of Engineers has issued permits for four mines that will dump millions of tons of rock and debris into nearby streams and valleys, burying them forever. The permits were issued without the required environmental studies and impact statements. On March 23, 2007, a federal judge agreed and rescinded the permits.
That was in 2007. In 2008 the Bush Administration, along with energy and coal industry groups, is appealing earlier court rulings with hopes of reversal which will allow mining companies to proceed. The Administration’s motto seems to be that they never found an environmental or conservation rule yet that they can’t or at least won’t try to at least soften if not do away with completely. The New York Times editorial on Oct. 20, 2008 gives more information and part of the disturbing history of the Administration regarding mountaintop mining, and the latest proposal that has come from the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining.
Do you think this is only an Appalachian problem? Do you think that because you live far away from West Virginia and the other Appalachian states threatened by this devastating form of mining that it doesn’t involve you and therefore you don’t need to be involved? Go to ilovemountains.org and type in your zip code. You’ll be surprised. I live in Utah, a coal producing state in its own right, but when I saw my own connections to mountaintop removal coal I determined to do something, anything.
The effects of this mining process are multiple, negative and permanent. To physically remove the tops of the mountains destroys habitat, forest, natural drainage. Filling the valleys pollutes water, kills streams, destroys communities. Processing creates air and water pollution. All of these combine and destroy in a matter of months a mountain system that took natural systems hundreds of millions of years to create. I refuse to accept that “we need the coal, we need the energy from the coal.” There MUST be a better way. This process, from a human perspective, destroys permanently. The mountains will never be the same; the streams and valleys will never be the same; this is their end. It is more than rape, it is murder.
Please learn more about this issue and speak out to your congressmen, to advocacy groups, to your power company, to anyone because this last photo is what these mountains, valleys and streams are supposed to look like.
Originally printed in the Appalachian Voice, June 2005, photo by Kent Kessinger
Here are some useful links for more information:
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
West Virginia Highlands Voice
Stop Mountaintop Removal
I love Mountains