Restoring Water Quality Protections Will Save Mountains

I can feel the momentum shifting in the fight to end mountaintop removal coal mining.

Last week, bi-partisan legislation to help halt mountaintop mining was introduced in Congress.  The Clean Water Protection Act (CWPA), a bill that would prevent coal companies from legally dumpining mining waste into valley streams, already has more than 150 co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives.

As noted by Grist, this important legislation marks a major milestone in the growing national movement to end an environmental atrocity:

The [CWPA] was introduced originally to challenge the outrageous executive rule change by the Bush administration to redefine "fill material" in the Clean Water Act, which has allowed coal companies to blast hundreds of mountains to bits, dump millions of tons of "excess spoil" into nearby valleys, and bury hundreds of miles of streams. An estimated 1,200 miles of waterways have been destroyed by this extreme mining process.

The end result: Toxic black waters and poisoned aquifers that have denied American citizens in the coalfields the basic right of a glass of clean water.

The timing of the bill couldn't be more urgent: On the heels of a 4th U.S. Circuit Court decision that overturned greater environmental review of mountaintop-removal actions by coal companies, scores of mining permits are flooding through the gates of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this month.

And the fight is not just happening at the federal level.  Next week, the Tennessee State Legislature will take up a bill -- the Scenic Vistas Protection Act -- that would effectively ban mountaintop mining in the state. 

What's particularly exciting is how the faith community is leading this effort.  As Tennessee lawmakers discuss this bill over the coming weeks, they will not only be hearing from their constituents -- many of whom are conservative church members -- but they also will be confronted with a series of billboards that convey this message:

As the controversial issue of mountaintop mining heats up in Washington, we'll also be keeping a close eye on the action in the Volunteer State.