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Jul 082010
 

By Brett Kessler
Green Right Now

Activists with the Rainforest Action Network staged a sit-in today at EPA headquarters in Washington to protest the passage of a permit that will allow mountaintop removal coal mining in Logan County, West Virginia.

RAN demonstrators locked themselves together during protest at EPA

The trouble with this mining practice is not just that mountains are obliterated in order to increase access to coal, but that the resulting debris and sediment are dumped into nearby lakes and streams, contaminating the water supply, according to RAN. For years, scientists and environmentalists have warned of the dangerous threat this poses to public health, especially to residents living downstream.

The five demonstrators, seated in the EPA lobby, played a recording of West Virginia’s adopted state song – John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” – overlapped with sounds of mining explosives detonated in Appalachia. In a statement from the Rainforest Action Network, the group says it hopes to highlight the contrast between EPA talk and the reality of the new policy.

“We’re sitting down inside the EPA to demand the EPA stand up to protect Appalachia’s precious drinking water, historic mountains and public health from the devastation of mountaintop removal,” said RAN’s Scott Parkin, in a statement. “At issue here is not whether mountaintop removal mining is bad for the environment or human health, because we know it is and the EPA has said it is. At issue is whether President Obama’s EPA will do something about it. So far, it seems it is easier to poison Appalachia’s drinking water than to defy King Coal.”

Many oppose mountaintop removal because it can degrade drinking water supplies

In April, the EPA announced tighter regulations for permitting mountaintop coal operations, raising hopes among environmentalists that this practice would become less prevalent. But two weeks ago, EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced approval for Arch Coal to proceed with its Pine Creek mountaintop mine in Logan County.

An EPA spokesman, however, says the mine’s final approval still hinges on the Corps of Engineers verifying certain modifications in how the mine will handle its waste to bring it into line with those new guidelines.

“The changes include limiting the operation to a single valley fill until the company demonstrates an absence of adverse impacts on water quality, among other significant changes,” said EPA spokeswoman Ernesta Jones. “A final decision on this project has not been made and EPA is waiting for a response from the Corps and the mining company regarding our comments.”

RAN opposes the mine because it says it could result in three valley fills as Arch Coal redistributes the land from the mined area which could “poison two miles of streams” that provide drinking water and fish for residents and wildlife, the environmental group reported.

A banner placed by the protesters asked the question, “Easier to Poison Appalachia’s Water than Defy King Coal?”

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