This post was co-written by Bruce Nilles and Mary Anne Hitt, director and deputy director, respectively, of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.
Today the Obama Administration announced steps to end the fast-tracking of certain mountaintop removal coal mine permits and to add tougher enforcement in Appalachia, important steps that - with additional actions - could greatly reduce the devastation to communities, waterways and mountains. However, these new policies alone will not necessarily improve conditions in Appalachia unless additional steps are taken and enforcement is stepped up significantly, and hundreds of mountains remain in peril.
That is why the Sierra Club is launching a new website today, called "What's At Stake," where you can track all the mountaintop removal permits now, before the Obama administration, and learn more about the mountains and communities whose fate hangs in the balance.
After a West Virginia court ruled against it recently, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today proposed revoking the nationwide "one-size-fits-all" permit it had used to authorize the dumping of coal mining waste into hundreds of miles of Appalachian headwater streams. The bad news, though, is that the Obama administration says it will continue to allow mountaintop removal mining to bury streams under tons of mining waste.
There is too much at stake in Appalachia for the administration to only go this far. Without a significant change in policy, mining companies will continue to destroy our mountains and bury our streams on the Obama administration's watch. If the Obama administration fully enforced the Clean Water Act, which would prohibit filling streams with mining waste, and closed regulatory loopholes created by the Bush administration, mountaintop removal coal mining would become nearly impossible.
The coal industry continues to find ways to pollute and use its influence to strong-arm its way around environmental regulations. They are more interested in profits than people, and in setting up roadblocks to progress on clean energy. We must all work together to clean up the coal industry.
This is also why you should check out our new "What's At Stake" mountaintop removal tracker website. Actor Ashley Judd has once again teamed up with Sierra Club to help launch the website.
In the next few months, if the Obama administration allows the hundreds of mountaintop removal coal mining permits that are currently in the pipeline to go forward, it will result in the outright destruction of hundreds of miles of streams, the leveling of over 60,000 acres of diverse hardwood forests, and a new round of blasting, flooding, and water contamination for the communities of Appalachia.
The true test of these new policies - and of President Obama's legacy on this issue - will be whether they change the terrible situation on the ground in Appalachia. You can tell the Obama Administration to stop MTR.
Recent studies have shown that the Appalachia Mountains could support commercial scale wind energy facilities, which would bring long-term, sustainable jobs to the region - but only if the mountains are left standing. We must stop this destructive practice now.
The bulldozers are already rolling.