Reposted from the Understory
by Nell Greenberg
At 7:00 am this morning, a dozen brave activists released a 25-foot banner on the lawn of the EPA headquarters in Washington, DC. The message on the banner calls on the EPA to pledge to end mountaintop removal coal mining in 2010. But there’s a catch—the banner and two of its holders are suspended from two freestanding tripods 20-feet above the air, and after seven hours they are still hanging there with no sign of coming down.
Today’s protest is an attempt to further pressure EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to enforce the Clean Water Act and halt mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR). Called the worst of the worst strip mining, the practice blows the tops off of whole mountains and contaminates drinking water all for a tiny amount of coal. Activists in today’s protest say they won’t leave unless Administrator Jackson commits to a flyover visit of the Appalachian Mountains and MTR sites, which, shockingly, she has never done before.
After seven hours, Administrator Jackson has made no such commitment. However, a few hours ago she tweeted her response to the protest gathering attention outside her window. As Administrator Jackson said in her tweet: “People are here today expressing views on MTM, a critical issue to our country. They’re concerned abt human health & water quality & so am I.”
It is very clear that the EPA is listening to the message being brought to their doorstep. However, at this point in the battle to end mountaintop removal coal mining, the question isn’t about whether Administrator Jackson is concerned about the issue. The question is what is her agency going to really do about it?
Despite the Obama administration’s big announcement last year that it was going to take “unprecedented steps” to reduce the environmental damage from mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia, the EPA has been slow moving. Two weeks ago, the EPA delayed action on a set of broad-ranging and specific measures to reduce the environmental impacts of mountaintop removal, after details of the plan were leaked to coal-state mining regulators. The EPA has for months been close to finalizing these permit guidelines, which many hope will mandate tougher protections to limit damage to water quality and be a step in the right direction toward abolishing the practice.
Based on EPA Administrator Jackson’s statements on March 8th at the National Press Club, it appears that the EPA is seeking ways to “minimize” the ecological damage of mountaintop mining rather than halt the most extreme strip mining practice. A paper released in January by a dozen leading scientists in the journal Science, however, concluded that mountaintop coal mining is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits all together. “The science is so overwhelming that the only conclusion that one can reach is that mountaintop mining needs to be stopped,” said Margaret Palmer, a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences and the study’s lead author.
The science has become clear that mountaintop removal is harming water resources in real and measurable ways. The EPA definitely can and must do much more on mountaintop mining and that includes exercising its full regulatory authority to block every single mining permit application that seeks to remove America’s oldest mountaintops and dump the waste into waterways.
As Kate Finneran, one of the two main climbers in today’s protest, said from her 20-foot high perch: “Mountaintop removal cannot be regulated. It must be abolished. Otherwise, we will continue to jeopardize our historic mountains, precious drinking water and especially the lives of the people who call Appalachia home. All of this for a tiny percent of dirty coal, the trade off doesn’t add up”
Want to support today’s protesters as they continue to defend Appalachia’s historic mountains?
1. Facebook Action: Comment on the Lisa Jackson’s Facebook page, and ask her to “Please go to Appalachia and see for yourself, it’s time to end MTR!” Facebook.com/lisapjackson
2. Twitter Action: Follow and Retweet @RAN’s tweets about MTR, including:
Dear @LisaPJackson, Over 470 American mountains are gone forever. How many more will it take for @EPAgov to ban #MTR #coal? #GoToAppalachia!
The Appalachian Mountains are being being blown to bits. To protest, tweet @LisaPJackson #GoToAppalachia!