Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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October 2009
Contents

Major News: EPA May Do Its Job!
DEP Biologist: Agency Chief Huffmans Testimony to Congress Was Ill Informed

Thinking About Your Legacy: An Open Letter from Dr. Ken Hechler

Reflecting on EPAs Announcement
JOBS in the Coalfields, the Right Way
Families in Mingo Co. Sue Over Flooding
Asking the Highest Court in the Land to Hear Our Case
Dear Friends at OVEC
Lindytown - Threats, Dead Horses and Shattered Dreams As the Draglines Creep Ever Closer
Lindytown - From Nice Little Mountain Town to Virtual Ghost Town
EPA Moves to Block WVs Largest MTR Mining Permit
Corps Approves Controversial Permit Despite EPAs Objections
The Trail of Tears - History Is Repeating Itself in WV
Policy Efforts on Family Cemetery Protection Issues
Join the Cemetery Protection Group And Help Find Long-Term Solutions
Awareness is Where Its At
Please Pray for Webster County
Cook Family Cemeteries: Ancestors No Longer Rest In Peace Due to Mountaintop Removal Mining
Coal Slurry: New York Times Nails Clean Water Act Crimes (Many) and Punishment (None)
Victory! Public Water Lines Finally Coming to Prenter
Goodbye Patricia, Welcome Stephanie! - New Organizer Joins SSP Effort
WVU Studying Effects of Coal Slurry Injection on Health
Working to Reduce Coal Prep Plant Air Pollution
Six Southern WV Communities to Benefit from EPA Grant
Judge Thornsbury Disqualified from Presiding in Slurry Injection Case
Coal Country - the movie: Film Debuts To Packed Crowd After Concerns Almost Cancel Showing
Help End MTR and Help Coal Country Have a Party!
OVEC: Power With!
What Happens In Valleys Is As Important As What Happens On Mountain Peaks
Plundering Appalachia - The Book, Is Here!
Chemicals and Their Dangers Force People From Kanawha Valley
Clean Elections - Saving WV From Future Scandals
Why Manchin and Co. Dont Care About Health in the Coalfields
Eating For OVEC Keeps Raising $$$
Carbon Tax: Our ACES in the Hole for Real Change
Report: Global Warming Causes 300,000 Deaths A Year, Toll to Increase
Remembering Conley Branch - May It Always Be In My Heart
United Against MTR:
Red Bandanas, Dreadlocks, Clean-Cut, Old Folks and Young
TV News Fails to Cover Mountaintop Removal Well, Or At All
Nominations for OSM Chief
University Divesting of Massey Stock, Others May Follow
Toxic Legislation: Selenium at the Legislature; OVEC Appeal to EPA


For viewing the PDF version of the newsletter

 
Winds of Change Newsletter, October 2009     See sidebar for table of contents

Major News: EPA May Do Its Job!

 
Does EPAs review signal the beginning of the end of coal company greed and destruction, which people across the coalfields, including OVEC board member and Keeper of the Mountains founder Larry Gibson work tirelessly to expose?

On Sept. 11 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it has concerns about the environmental harm that would be caused by the issuance of dozens of mountaintop removal permits that the agency had been reviewing since June.

EPAs actions were welcomed by local and national groups working to end the practice of mountaintop removal. While noting it is only a first step, the groups commended EPA for its decision.

"While many mountains, streams and communities continue to be impacted or annihilated by mountaintop removal because of years of lawless mining, EPAs announcement today provides people with some hope that from this day forward, real science and laws will be applied before any more permits are issued," said OVECs executive director Janet Keating.

"The public needs to know that this announcement does not apply to existing mountaintop removal permits. We ask that our politicians dont cry that the sky is falling, but instead let the scientific experts at EPA do the job that taxpayers expect of them to protect our water, air and land for us and for future generations," she said. Others agreed.

"EPAs action today creates a welcome reprieve for the people who live below these enormous mining sites and the waste dumps they put into our waters," said Judy Bonds, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch. "We will continue our fight for a total, complete reprieve for our children and for our beloved mountains and streams."

Of the 79 permits under review, EPA has determined that for each and every permit at issue the destruction of streams and harm to watersheds in the region raise questions about the legality of the permits under the Clean Water Act.

Under a procedure adopted by the Obama administration in June, EPAs action is expected to trigger a 60-day joint review of the permits between EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, if the Corps disagrees with EPAs initial review. Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy joined EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in making the announcement.

 
We can only hope that the EPA will view mountaintop removal mining in a different light than the Army Corps of Engineers, which sees this type of wholesale destruction and devastation as something minor.

"We are pleased, but not surprised, that these 79 mines failed to pass muster under the Clean Water Act at this stage in the review. We have been saying for years that these types of mines are too destructive to proceed," said Joe Lovett, executive director of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment. "It is satisfying to know that there are finally leaders at EPA and in other federal environmental agencies who are willing to acknowledge that reality."

"For this stage in the permitting review process, EPA is doing the right thing, and we commend Administrator Jackson for her leadership," said Joan Mulhern, senior legislative counsel for Earthjustice. "These mines, if permitted, would destroy many miles of streams in a region already devastated by mountaintop removal. We are confident that if EPA and the Corps do the enhanced review as promised, they will determine that all of the mines with valley fills will cause unacceptable harm and violate the law. The next step should not only be to conduct the review and deny permits for mines that destroy waters, but the administration must also reinstate the clean water rules that prevented industries from dumping their waste into streams."

In contrast to the result of an earlier review of other similar permits, where EPA allowed some mines like Peg Fork, which have destructive valley fills, to proceed even though they would cause unlawful destruction of waterways, EPAs action today shows that it is now looking closely at the law and science in its permit review process and also providing some welcome public transparency.

Earlier this year, the EPA conducted a review of 48 applications pending before the Army Corps of Engineers for Clean Water Act permits to fill streams. At the end of its review, the EPA identified the Peg Fork MTR mine in Mingo County and five other mines as projects of high concern, and instructed the Army Corps not to issue those permits.

Unfortunately, the EPA raised no objections to 42 of those 48 mines, and eventually allowed the issuance of the Peg Fork mine permit with minimal additional conditions.

Despite that decision, those permits still fail to satisfy the requirements for permits issued under the Clean Water Act.

Many of these permits would still have unacceptable adverse impacts on local waterways and therefore violate the Clean Water Act. (See "Corps Approves Controversial Permit" on page 9.)

 

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