iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Jeff Biggers

Jeff Biggers

Posted: January 1, 2010 12:03 PM

New Year's Resolution: Mountaintop Removal Ends in 2010

What's Your Reaction:

This is the year that mountaintop removal ends.

This is the year we begin the just transition in the coalfields--climate ground zero--with a real commitment to sustainable economic development for a clean energy future.

This is what we know: Mountaintop removal provides less than 8-10 percent of all national coal production, while utilities coal stockpiles have increased during the summer for the first time in 25 years; while absentee coal companies slash mining jobs and idle higher-cost mines to keep their stock holders happy in a period of slumping demand; and, as recent U.S. Geological Survey estimates place "peak coal" production as early as 2020.

In the meantime, this absolutely unnecessary process of strip mining has devastated the peace and prosperity of a region for over a generation--thousands of Americans have been forced to relocate from their ancestral properties, communities and their watersheds have been poisoned by heavy metals and toxic pollution, 500 mountains and 1.2 million acres of hardwood forests in the carbon sink of Appalachia have been blown to bits, and nearly 2,000 miles of headwater streams and waterways have been jammed with mining waste.

To understand the scope of the destruction on American soil, every American should watch filmmaker extraordinaire Chad Steven's video, Leveling Appalachia.


2010-01-01-Picture5.png


This is what we also know: The well-meaning EPA has suspended various mountaintop removal permits, but still lacks the resolve and ultimate authority to abolish this reckless form of mining operation, despite indisputable Clean Water Act violations; the Office on Surface Mining Reclamation Enforcement lacks the resolve to reverse the Bush administration's blatant manipulation of the Stream Buffer Zone before 2011, and President Barack Obama, despite his presidential campaign promises to find another way of mining coal without blowing up our nation's oldest mountain range and historic communities, lacks the resolve to halt the most egregious human rights and environmental violation in our nation.

In the meantime, investment for green jobs and clean energy is desperately needed in the Appalachian coalfields, as part of a just transition: Every coal miner deserves a right to a sustainable livelihood. This means that coalfield residents, like all Americans, deserve a road map for a feasible transition to clean-energy jobs--including a Coal Miner's GI Bill for retraining and a massive reinvestment in sustainable economic development in coalfield communities--before we reach a point of no return.


The last hope now remains in the US Congress, where the Clean Water Protection Act in the House and the Appalachian Restoration Act in the Senate, moves swiftly along with a growing number of co-sponsors.

Last February, US 
Rep. 
Frank
 Pallone 
Jr.
 brilliantly spelled out the situation on the Congressional Floor

This is 
not 
just 
another 
environmental 
issue
‐‐
it's a 
matter 
of 
justice 
and
 fundamental
 human
 rights
‐‐
the 
right 
of 
all 
people 
to 
live 
free 
from
 the 
fear
 that 
a
 boulder
 might 
kill
 their
 child 
in 
the 
middle 
of 
the 
night; 
the
 right
 to
 send
 your
 children
 to 
a 
school
 not 
threatened
 by 
billions 
of 
gallons 
of
 coal 
slurry; 
the 
right 
to
 preserve 
the 
streams 
and 
valleys 
that
 have 
been
 part 
of
 their 
way 
of 
life; 
and 
the
 right 
to 
protect
 their 
own 
land,
 no 
matter 
how
 much
 coal
 might 
be 
underneath.




This 
legislation 
would 
amend 
the 
Clean 
Water 
Act 
to 
clarify 
that 
toxic 
rubble 
created

by 
mountaintop 
removal 
coal‐mining 
cannot 
b
e defined
 as
"fill 
material"
and

dumped
 into 
the 
headwater 
streams
 of 
Appalachia.




It 
is 
simply 
inappropriate 
to 
allow 
the 
excess 
spoil
 from
 this 
type 
of 
mining
 to 
be

dumped
 in 
mountain 
streams
 where 
it 
can
 pollute 
waterways, 
fill 
valleys, 
and
 in

some
 cases,
 potentially 
endanger
 the 
lives 
of 
area 
residents.



I 
believe 
that
 the
 federal 
government 
has
 a 
responsibility 
to 
protect 
these 
rights,
 not 
to 
give
massive 
mining
 companies 
a 
free 
pass 
to 
dump
 their 
waste 
into
 a 
nearby
 stream.



We 
can 
no 
longer 
allow
 the 
coal 
industry 
to 
dictate 
our 
environmental 
policy 
with regard to Mountaintop Removal.

If you wish to end mountaintop removal this year, join the incredible I Love Mountains Campaign--an alliance of the coalfields citizens groups on the frontlines of our nation's most important clean energy and climate battle--and find out how you can help, how you can donate, and most importantly, how you can make sure your members of Congress are supporters and co-sponsors of these historic bills.

2010--the year mountaintop removal finally ends.