There Goes Another Mountain

Straightenin' the curves
Flattenin' the hills
Someday the mountain might get 'em
but the law never will

- "Dukes of Hazzard" theme song

As expected, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers approved a permit for Arch Coal's Pine Creek No. 1 Surface Mine in southern West Virginia. 

 In addition to removing the mountain to access the coal, the company will bury more than 14,500 feet of streams under toxic mining waste and debris.  The permit requires mitigation to the tune of roughly 37,000 feet of new streams that will be "created" elsewhere -- as if engineered waterways could ever compensate for the loss of natural, life-giving headwater streams.

This greenlighted permit is one of 79 applications for Appalachian mountaintop removal operations that EPA froze in September, citing concerns about significant water quality impacts.  Six other permits have been issued since then; 36 have been withdrawn by the applicants; and 36 are still pending. 

The Pine Creek permit is the first to be issued since EPA announced new water quality standards for surface mines in April.  EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said then that the agency's tougher standards would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for coal companies to receive permits allowing them to fill valley streams with dirt, rubble and debris generated by mountaintop removal.  In issuing the Pine Creek permit yesterday, EPA released a statement reiterating its commitment to uphold the Clean Water Act when regulating coal mining while insisting that "the improvements to this permit demonstrate once again that the health, waters and environment of coalfield communities can be protected while also preserving the jobs and economic benefits."

So, now another Appalachian peak will be blown to smithereens; two miles of streams will be obliterated; wildlife will be lost; drinking water will be put at risk of contamination; and residents in Logan County along Pine Creek will suffer for the sake of Big Coal.

When, if ever, will the Obama administration realize that it's not enough to regulate an atrocity -- mountaintop removal coal mining must be abolished.