This evening, shortly after dusk, I'll join millions of my fellow Americans simultaneously celebrating our nation's liberty by gazing skyward to watch explosions in the sky. When you think about the 4th of July, you think one thing: fireworks. And lots of them, as loud as possible!
I'm lucky enough to live near enough to watch this dazzling celestial spectacle over the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Mall. Ironically, just a short 6-hour drive west of D.C. there will be no bombs bursting on the mountains of Appalachia. That's right, July 4th is one of the few days of the year when mining companies take a break from blasting America's oldest mountains with more than 3.5 million pounds of explosives per day as part of mountaintop removal coal mining. For those keeping score, that's the equivalent of the Hiroshima atomic bomb going off in the coalfields every week.
This is just one of many videos on YouTube showing how mining companies are methodically reducing the Appalachians to rubble -- destroying the ecosystem of one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world and making life a living hell for the coalfield residents who call this region home.
Make no mistake: mountaintop removal is the world's worst strip mining. Throughout Appalachia this reckless practice has wiped out lush forests, obliterated pristine headwater streams, poisoned drinking water and harmed countless communities.
Mountaintop removal is a crime -- yet it's perfectly legal.
This is thanks to lax enforcement of regulations by state and federal agencies, but mostly due to a loophole in the Clean Water Act enacted by the Bush administration in 2002 that expanded the statutory definition of the word "fill material" to allow the dumping of mining waste -- tons of dirt, rock and debris -- into valley streams.
President Obama has the authority to reverse this rule, and NRDC and others are working hard to get his administration to do just that. Meantime, there is legislation in Congress that would ban so-called valley fills, effectively ending mountaintop removal.
So before going out to enjoy the fireworks tonight, we could use your firepower: Help declare America's independence from the destruction of our mountains by urging your senators to pass the Appalachia Restoration Act.
Saving our mountains is yet another reason to secure our nation's freedom from dirty energy -- once and for all -- by enacting clean energy policies for the 21st century that will protect the planet and provide jobs.