Friday 13th Brings Bad Luck in Fight Against Mountaintop Mining

On this unluckiest of all days, there is a horror story for those trying to save Appalachia's mountains from senseless destruction in pursuit of the world's dirtiest fossil fuel.  A federal appeals court today overturned a lower court ruling curtailing mountaintop removal -- the world's most destructive coal mining technique. 

For the past decade -- escalating during the Bush administration thanks to weakened regulations and lax enforcement -- this extreme strip mining has devastated the Appalachian region.  Using high explosives and heavy equipment, mining companies have literally decapitated nearly 500 hundred mountains to access thin seams of coal below.  

Two years ago, Judge Robert Chambers of the Southern District of West Virginia, issued a ruling effectively stopping the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from permitting mountaintop mining operations.  Judge Roberts determined that the Corps erred in allowing coal companies to blast mountains to smithereens and dump the mining debris into the valley streams below -- a clear violation of the Clean Water Act.

Now comes a 2-1 decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in
Virginia reversing Judge Chambers' ruling.  Read press coverage here and the appeals court decision here

The environmental plaintiff's in this court battle are now evaluating the full implications of today's legal defeat, but it's safe to say that Massey Energy and other practitioners of mountaintop removal are cheering.  They are delighted at the prospect of the Corps returning to form as a 'rubber stamp' permitting factory for the coal industry.