EPA to Conduct Scientific Assessment of Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Common-sense tells us that blowing up a mountain and dumping the waste into valley streams is bad for water quality.  But that logic has yet to thwart mountaintop removal coal mining.  So I take it as a positive sign that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will conduct a scientific study of how surface coal mines affect the environment in Appalachia.

According to a notice of the study published last Friday in the Federal Register, the EPA will assess the loss of streams, water quality degradation, and the effect of surface mining on aquatic life.  The research also will evaluate restoration and recovery methods used by mine operators.  Unfortunately, human health effects will not be part of the study.

[UPDATE: Look for the U.S. EPA to issue a new draft scientific report on mountaintop removal's environmental impacts sometime in early November.  Details courtesy of Coal Tattoo.]

This move by EPA follows the agency's recent decision to hold up 79 pending mountaintop removal permits for further scrutiny, citing concerns about water quality impacts.  Forty-nine of the permits are for mines in Kentucky; 23 mines are in West Virginia; six are in Ohio; and one is in Tennessee.  NRDC urges the EPA to continue to follow the science in determining whether to approve or reject those permits -- you can help by sending a message to EPA head Lisa Jackson

Clearly, America's oldest mountains shouldn't be turned into molehills for the sake of dirty coal.