A Flood of Blame for Mountaintop Removal

Some 300 National Guard troops are pouring into southern West Virginia by order of Gov. Joe Manchin III.  The soldiers are being dispatched to aid in disaster relief in the wake of flooding over the weekend caused by a wave of powerful storms that destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings, knocked out electricity and caused mudslides.  

"Since I have been governor, the damage that was caused by the flash floods is as bad asI have seen anywhere," Manchin said in a statement.

Surely the governor must be aware that many coal field residents blame mountaintop removal for worsening flooding in the region. 

FYI, featured in the latest NRDC newsletter Nature's Voice is Go Tear It Off the Mountain: Coal and Appalachia, which reads:

They were once enduring symbols of timelessness, celebrated in a rich tradition of folklore and song, but today the mountains of Appalachia are, quite literally, disappearing.  Call it what it is: mountaintop removal.

Eager coal companies, emboldened by years of business-friendly deregulation, are leveling forests and blasting the tops off mountains to get at the thin seams of coal inside. So far, more than 470 summits across the region have been reduced to rubble.

"It's almost incomprehensible that a company can destroy an entire mountain," says Rob Perks, director of NRDC's Center for Advocacy Campaigns.  "But the destruction doesn't stop there."

Lush, biologically diverse valleys are transformed into giant landfills where mining companies dump millions of tons of waste, obliterating wildlife habitat and burying once-clear mountain streams.  At least 380,000 acres of forest alone have already been lost, with nearly 500,000 more acres expected to disappear by 2012.

In small towns from West Virginia to eastern Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, residents are suffering the devastating impacts of mountaintop removal.  The explosive blasts damage homes and leave whole towns covered in a layer of filthy coal dust, while huge slurry ponds pose an ever-present threat of bursting their dams. 

All this so that coal companies can extract a fuel source that is one of the dirtiest and most polluting: Burning coal in the United States contributes more than two billion tons of climate-warming carbon dioxide to the Earth's atmosphere each year.

NRDC is working with local residents and grassroots organizations to put a halt to mountaintop removal and save the Cumberland Plateau, a region with more than 4,000 native species found nowhere else on the planet.  It's been a tough battle in the face of years of Bush-era pro-mining policies, but now there's new hope.  Bank of America recently announced that it would phase out lending to companies that engage in mountaintop removal after an NRDC-led tour in Appalachia showed bank executives firsthand the devastation there.  And the House has introduced legislation that would strengthen the Clean Water Act and prohibit mining waste from being recklessly dumped in the area's streams.

Here are details about Bank of America's new policy and, of course, there is now a bi-partisan bill in the Senate to protect waterways from being buried and polluted by mountaintop removal.