Environmental groups rally in D.C. against mountaintop coal mining

Environmental groups opposed to mountaintop-removal coal mining planned a Sept. 13 rally in front of the White House to push for new restrictions on this form of mining, which is particularly used in the rugged terrain of Central Appalachia.

The participating organizations, many of whom have been involved in federal lawsuits in recent years over coal mining practices, included Earthjustice, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Coal River Mountain Watch, Appalachian Voices, the Sierra Club and Waterkeeper Alliance.

At a lunchtime event on Sept. 13, more than 30 Appalachian community leaders will be joined by hundreds of supporters and concerned citizens in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., to urge President Barack Obama to end mountaintop removal coal mining and to deliver an historic photo petition (of more than 13,000 personal photos and messages) to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the groups said in a Sept. 12 statement. Later, in the evening, there will be an event at a Washington church. Both events will honor long-time West Virginia activist Larry Gibson, who recently passed away from a heart attack.

“Mountaintop removal coal mining is a radical form of strip mining in Appalachia that has impacted more than 500 mountains and buried more than 2,400 miles of streams,” the groups said in a statement. “Recent peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown widespread devastating health problems near mountaintop removal mining: citizens near mountaintop removal are 50 percent more likely to die of cancer and 42 percent more likely to be born with birth defects as compared with other people in Appalachia.”

The coal industry has routinely countered over the years that mountaintop removal mining (the industry prefers not to use the word “removal”) is a safe, environmentally responsible form of mining that can create flattened land for economic development and produce vital coal for power generation. Notable is that not all major surface mines in Central Appalachia are technically mountaintop mines, since many of them work around the contours of the mountain and not on top of it. But environmentalists tend to apply that description to all such mines.

The Obama Administration has already been active in restricting this type of mining through means like a tougher U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approach to Section 404 Clean Water Act permitting for mine valley fills that cover streams, and through a controversial proposal to toughen George W. Bush Administration rules on what can be placed in buffer zones around streams.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.