Administration Sends Mixed Signals on Mountain Top Removal Mining

Administration Announcement Falls Short on Stopping Destructive Mining Practice

WASHINGTON (June 11, 2009) – The administration's announcement today fails to address the destructive impact of mountaintop removal, according to experts at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Obama Administration officials announced that they are taking “unprecedented steps to reduce the environmental impacts of mountaintop coal mining” in the six Appalachian states of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The announcement focuses on plans to coordinate reviews of mountaintop removal permits among the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, and Army Corps of Engineers.

Following is a statement by Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, Senior Scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“So far, the administration’s approach to mountaintop removal coal mining has been a mix of strong words, but weak action. Today’s announcement is more of the same: unspecified references to strengthening permit reviews provides no assurance that the administration will end this abhorrent practice soon. Mountaintop removal is among the worst forms of energy acquisition and its destructive impacts are well known.

"The science is clear -- this practice devastates ecosystems, obliterates streams, and pollutes water supplies.  Searching for environmentally acceptable mountaintop removal, which the administration has not ruled out, is futile.  This administration promised a science-based environmental policy, which is impossible to square with mountaintop removal.

"Sadly, today’s announcement will not bring about what is needed: an end to mountaintop removal.  America needs to move to clean energy solutions and mountaintop removal does not fit in that picture. Mountaintop removal is a highly mechanized process that uses explosives to blow the top off of mountains, filling valleys and streams with coal waste.

"Even after today’s announcement, mountaintop mining will continue to devastate Appalachia, until loopholes in the law are closed. The administration must expeditiously undo the so-called ‘fill rule adopted by the Bush administration in 2002 that gives the Army Corps of Engineers the authority to permit the huge stream fills associated with mountaintop removal.  There are bi-partisan bills in Congress right now -- the Clean Water Protection Act in the House and the Appalachia Restoration Act in the Senate -- that would also help end mountaintop removal, and we look to the administration to push for legislation that ends mountaintop removal.”